"Objection, Your Honor!" This time, Stacey didn't settle merely for rising out of her chair. Instead, she leapt around it, striding up to Kevin, paused before the witness stand with Felicia in the hot seat, and all but shoved him out of the way as she appealed to the judge, "What possible relevance could Mr. Fowler's question have on the issue at hand?"
"My asking Ms. Gallant whether or not she would trade the life of her granddaughter in order to have her daughter back again is extremely relevant," Kevin argued calmly, back to Stacey. "Since that is, in effect, precisely what she is advocating here."
"This isn't a court of public opinion, Mr. Fowler," Stacey countered. "No matter how much your posturing suggests otherwise. This is a court of law. And the only point of law that currently matters is who has the right to be making Ms. Devon's decisions while she is incapacitated."
"Then why," Kevin wanted to know. "Did you put Lorna's mother on the stand to swear that she'd want to save her own life by any means possible?"
"To illustrate that Dr. Winthrop's understanding of what Ms. Devon would want is much more in sync with her actual wishes than the opinion of Dr. Frame."
"And since we're dealing in opinions, then what's wrong with me asking Ms. Gallant hers?"
"Are you going to ask her favorite color, too?"
"If it demonstrates that both she and Dr. Winthrop are acting in their own self-interest rather than in Lorna's, yes. Thank you for the suggestion."
"Your Honor..." Stacey turned back to the only sensible man left in the room.
"Yes, Ms. Winthrop?"
"Objection?" she reminded.
"Overruled," he responded pleasantly. Then warned Kevin, "But, do tone down the theatrics, Mr. Fowler. It appears to be upsetting opposing counsel."
"Will do," Kevin promised, turning back to Felicia. "Well, Ms. Gallant? My question still stands. Would you?"
Felicia glared at him with a hate that made the air around her shimmer. Still avoiding Jamie, she looked at Morgan, then at Lucas sitting directly behind him. He seemed to be pleading with her, but Felicia couldn't be certain about what. She knew where he stood on the issue of Lorna and the baby. But Jenna and Lori Ann, that was completely different. Nothing Felicia could say would change the situation. They were dealing in pure, impossible what if's. And so she told Kevin, and the rest of them, the truth.
"Yes," Felicia exhaled. "If I could trade Lori Ann for Jenna, I would."
No one appeared confident about how to respond. Five pairs of eyes Lucas, Morgan, Stacey, Jamie, Kevin bored into Felicia while she continued her sacrilegious thought, hearing the words as if they were coming from far away and being said by someone else.
"Everybody keeps talking about Lorna's baby like it were an existing thing. It is not an existing thing. It's an idea. Right now, it couldn't survive outside of Lorna's body. If Lorna dies, this baby dies with her. Lori Ann is real. She's a real little girl. Asking me about her now, it's pointless. Nothing will bring Jenna back. And your even invoking her name is disgusting. But, if you had asked me two years ago, before Lori Ann was anything more than an idea, if I would be willing to sacrifice her to save Jenna, I would have told you yes, yes, and again, yes. It's the same thing here. You are forcing me to weigh my real daughter a daughter who I still have a great deal of things to say to; I'm sure she feels the same way about me against some theoretical grandchild. No contest, Mr. Fowler, do you understand?" She hesitated, then recalled, "You're a parent, aren't you?"
Kevin nodded in spite of himself, wondering what the protocol was for objecting to a line of questioning by the witness.
"Wouldn't you do anything to save your daughter's life? Sacrifice anyone?"
Kevin smiled ironically, recalling his recent dilemma with just that very question, but let it pass unanswered.
Not that Felicia needed his input. She was a writer, after all. Even when she composed dialogue, it still came from a single source. "That's what I'm trying to do. Save my child. If Lorna's doctor told me that she needed a heart transplant and there was only one donor compatible, I would cut it out, still beating, myself. There is nothing that I wouldn't do for my daughter. Can Jamie say the same?"
Despite having every intention of playing it cool, Amanda couldn't help flinching just a little the moment Lila stepped into her office, blowing by Amanda's secretary, reassuring that she'd announce herself, thanks so much, sugar.
"Relax," Lila ordered Amanda in a tone that sounded more exhausted than anything else. "If I wanted to smack you around, I'd have brought a phonebook with me."
"What?" Amanda stared at her, dumbfounded by the non sequitur.
"Hitting a body with a phonebook doesn't leave a bruise," Lila clarified, as if this were a fact any passably educated person should know. "Another reason to miss Ma Bell. Hard to go medieval with Whitepages.com."
This was just way too much neither here nor there information for Amanda. And not at all the direction she expected their conversation to go in. "What?"
"You told Kevin I made the call that sicced the cops on Alice," Lila accused.
"I told him the call came from the Cory house," Amanda corrected. "And since you were the only one in the Cory house who was aware of that, outside of Allie "
"And if there's one thing we know about your well-behaved little girl, it's that she would never exploit an innocent person to cover her own ass."
"If Allie was going to incriminate Alice to save herself, she wouldn't have made the call anonymously. Neither would I."
"True. You do take pride in screwing people to their faces. It's oddly admirable."
"So if you're not here to beat me with a phonebook, Lila, what are you here to do?"
"I'm here to tell you that you'll be sorry."
"Please," Amanda laughed to relieve the tension, happy that their altercation was finally following the path she'd expected all along. "There is nothing you can "
"Oh, not me," Lila clarified with a mirthless smirk. "I am, as they say, withdrawing my name from consideration. I'm getting quite good at it, you know. When Frankie came back home and expected me to fight for Cass not to make too fine a point of it, but Cass expected it, too; guess that's how it went the last time he tried juggling two wives, and he simply couldn't imagine an alternate scenario I just walked away. That's what I'm doing here, too. You want to chase after Kevin free and clear, you go right on ahead. I certainly won't be standing in your way. No man is worth demeaning myself like that."
"Then why did you say I'd be sorry?" Amanda wondered cautiously, suspecting she really didn't want to hear the answer to her question.
"Because. You don't know what you're doing. You've always been the golden girl. The one the men fought over, starting with, I'd guess, your Daddy and the boy who took you to Junior Prom. I don't mean you've got no inkling how to catch yourself a man. That's pretty simple. Men... are pretty simple. I mean you don't know what the chase does to you. How it turns you into something twisted and pathetic, and makes the object of your tug-of-war eventually seem like nothing more than a fool. I've been down that road before. That's how I know not to do it again. You, apparently, still have that lesson ahead of you."
"Sour grapes," Amanda scoffed. "That's what this is. You're trying to play me."
"Believe what you like. It's gotten you this far, hasn't it?"
"Hey," Jen looked, confused, from side to side as she entered GQ's apartment and closed the door behind her. "Where's all the stuff for Hudson?"
"Having it shipped," he answered dully. Sitting on a chair, tapping his fingers on the kitchen table, not even standing up to kiss her as Jen walked in.
"Well, did you at least have fun shopping?" she asked, figuring it was more subtle than wondering flat-out what was going on.
"It was... interesting."
"I bet. They've got so much new stuff for kids these days. It's amazing any of us lived to adulthood without organic baby food or knee-pads or Baby Einstein "
"You know that baby Cass and Frankie Winthrop adopted?" GQ interrupted out of the blue.
"Yeah," Jen nodded. "My dad handled the papers. Little girl's name is Lori Ann."
"Well, seems Lori Ann's deadbeat daddy is back in town."
"Oh," Jen gulped, shuddering instinctively and taking a seat next to GQ, still not sure where this was going, but already not liking it.
"Don't get me wrong, he's not like your dad. Only he couldn't handle it after the kid's mom died, so he split. Nobody knew where he was for over a year. Now he's back."
"Actually, that sounds a lot like my dad."
"He's not an addict or a criminal or anything. He just signed away rights to his kid, let her get adopted by this nice, two-parent family, and then he changed his mind."
"He's looking to take Lori Ann back?" Jen swallowed hard.
"He's going to get Lori Ann back," GQ corrected. "Cass said it was fine with him. All they've got left is to work out the details."
"Is it... is it because Cass is in jail?"
"He's out," GQ illuminated. "Ended up serving maybe, what, six months for killing a woman? Yeah, that sounds fair. I'm sure if it was me.... Anyway, that had nothing to do with it, I gather. Frankie and Cass just figured he's back, he deserves to be a dad."
"I'm not even sure they can legally do that," Jen mused. "A kid isn't like transferring the registration for your car."
GQ looked down at his hands, linking his fingers then opening and closing them several times, so he looked like a bird trying futilely to take off. Without turning his head to look at Jen, he said, "I know what I sound like, okay? I know how I come off. Talk to me for a few minutes, and you'd think I see Klansmen under every bed. Teacher gives me a bad grade; obviously she's a racist. I ask for cream and sugar and my coffee comes back Black, clearly, I'm being sent a message."
She didn't say anything, just rested her palm over his twitching fingers and squeezed gently.
"Believe it or not," GQ went on, still not meeting her eyes. "I try hard not to be like that. All my talk about Hudson being raised to know his heritage, I think it's important, but not because I think White people are evil or worse than anyone else. Just because it's who he is, he deserves to know that. I try my best, really, to give everyone a fair shake, to not look at the world through just race and nothing else. But, what am I supposed to do, Jen, what am I supposed to think, when this guy who dumped his kid, who signed papers saying he doesn't want to be her father anymore, and then ran away to do God-knows what, God-knows where, all he has to do is turn up, mumble an apology or two, and he's being handed his little girl back, along with good luck wishes and pats on the shoulder and commendations about how brave and stand-up he's being? Why isn't anyone asking him if he's got baby stuff? Why aren't they telling Dean that he's single and jobless and doesn't know the first thing about taking care of a kid? I didn't do anything. I didn't relinquish my rights. I didn't run away. From the time I found out about Hudson, I've been right here, fighting for him. Still, I've got to prove that I can be a good dad. Why doesn't he? I'm sorry I've only got one answer to that question. And it's the one everyone expects. But, help me out here. You're better at this. What else could it be?"
Jen raised her hand to stroke GQ's hair, gently turning his head so that he could face her. She said, "The only thing I'm better at than you, is making excuses. I will bend over backwards to make sure that whatever anyone does to me, I can justify it on anything but racial terms. When I was seven, I had to take a standardized IQ test for this private school my daddy well, he wasn't my daddy then, he was just my lawyer, which, considering how things unfolded, was actually better anyway, it was this private school he thought would be a good place for me, just the right amount of intellectual challenge, you know? I went in to take the test, don't remember much about it, it seemed easy, but, then again, I hold a very high opinion of myself. When I came out to where Daddy was waiting, the lady who'd administered the test asked him, sounding confused, "How in the world can a child like this possibly know so much?" I told myself I didn't understand what she meant. I told myself she must have meant someone like me, from public school. Or someone like me, whose parents were gone. I was even willing to go with, someone like me a girl. Girls weren't supposed to be as smart as boys, right? That must have been what she meant. Daddy sent me out of the room, and he and the lady had a chat, and then I was admitted the next day. I think it wasn't until I was set to graduate, that I mentioned that exchange to him again, wondering what she meant. He looked at me like he wasn't sure if I was pulling his leg or not. And then he said, "She was racist, Jen." Would you believe, after finishing near the top of my class at the most rigorous girls' school in the country, after getting early admission to Yale, the thought had never crossed my mind? And even then, I didn't quite believe him."
"You were lucky," he offered.
"I was blind. Willfully, deliberately blind."
"But, isn't that what we're all supposed to be striving for?" he joked, with just a touch of hope in his voice, making clear how much GQ wished it to be true.
"I'm sorry I haven't been as supportive as I should have been where you and Hudson were concerned."
"You had your reasons."
"I did. I do. But, I have even better reasons to stand by you."
"And what might those be?"
She smiled cockily, kissing him briefly before explaining, "The best reason anyone like me could possibly have." And kissed him again. "I might learn something."
"Sarah? It's Marley. I'm just calling to find out how you're doing."
"Oh... I Thanks. I'm okay."
"You were so down at Christmas."
"Nothing like the holidays to remind us losers without boyfriends what losers we are."
"The lack of a boyfriend for the span of seven days between Christmas and New Year's hardly qualifies as an adequate overall personality assessment."
"It doesn't help," Sarah did her best to sound as if she were joking.
Marley pretended to believe her. "Listen, Sarah, I actually had a thought I wanted to float by you. I know it's been hard, living at the dorms with Steven just down the hall."
"Actually, Steven moved out. For a while, anyway. He's staying with Kirkland at their dad's place while Dr. Frame is busy at the hospital with Ms. Devon. Didn't he tell you?"
"No." Now it was Marley turn to fake an unnaturally jocular tone. "He didn't. Neither did Jamie. Or Kirkland." Wincing, she couldn't help recalling Donna's rant, after Steven had been hospitalized following his middle of the night mountain rescue hike, that no one told her anything about her own family anymore. Like she didn't matter. "Oh, well," Marley chirped on, "I guess there goes one of my reasons."
"One of your reasons for what?"
Marley sighed. "My mother has moved back into the house. I didn't want her to, but... it's complicated. And the path of least resistance is "
"Not?" Sarah guessed.
"Exactly. Here is the problem. It's a big house, and if I concentrate, I can avoid Donna most of the time. But, I won't be on the premises every minute. And I do not, under any circumstances, want Donna to ever be left alone with Bridget and Michele. I thought, just for fun, I'd break the Love cycle of neurosis and insanity," again, Marley smiled despite Sarah not being able to see her through the phone. "And raise some normal, well-adjusted children, for change."
"I wish my mother had your attitude," Sarah said flippantly, only realizing after the fact the full implication of her statement. Sarah's mother, Olivia... when, if only matters had gone a little differently, it might have been Marley.
"Anyway, I was wondering if you would have any interest in moving in with us and keeping an eye on the girls when I'm not available? Not as a nanny! You wouldn't have to keep set hours or anything. I know you're busy with school and your social life "
"But, more as a friendly houseguest. And a buffer. The girls are crazy about you, and I could use another adult to talk to. We've got much nicer accommodations than the BCU dorms. Our kitchen is open twenty-four hours. Plus, maid service and an indoor pool!"
"Wow... That's a really nice offer."
"It's a purely selfish one, I assure you. I could really use someone who'd be on my side."
"It sounds great, Marley. You're right; I'm not exactly drowning in luxury here."
"So, you'll do it?"
"I The only problem is... What if Steven thinks... What if Steven thinks I'm using his sisters and you as a way to worm back into his life?"
"Steven will think what Steven will think. He always has before. And, most of the time, none of us can make heads or tails of it. But, in addition, I'd be happy to make it clear to him that I invited you; you're doing me a favor. Not the other way around."
"He won't believe you, I bet. Steven is so full of himself, he thinks I'm just laying around all day, pining, and cooking up schemes to win him back."
Sarah thought about it and admitted, "Yes. But, it should be more fun to do it surrounded by maid service and while swimming in an indoor pool."
"Happy New Year, Mr. Harrison!" Jasmine beamed up at Grant's equally delighted and puzzled face from his front porch. "May I come in?"
"Please do," Grant stepped aside formally to allow her entry, suppressing a smile at just how damn adorable she was, and leaned to look out the door when no one followed her. The only thing he saw was a town car at the curb, the driver inside saluting him through the windshield.
"That's my chauffeur," Jasmine explained helpfully when Grant simply pointed at the scene. "Mama and Daddy were busy, and I wanted to see you."
"So you hired your own car? What kind of allowance are they giving you?" Grant ushered Jasmine into the living room.
"Of course not," Jasmine struggled to summon up the most mature phrase she could think of to describe the situation, finally settling on, "He came with the house."
This time, Grant needed to practically choke down his laughter. It proved rather easy as soon as he realized, "Wait a minute, do your parents know you're here?"
"If they did, they wouldn't have let me come," Jasmine noted reasonably. "And I had to see you. First to give you this, since I didn't see you Christmas," she held out a brightly wrapped gift. "And second, to help you and Mama make up and be friends again."
"Oh, Jazz. I would like nothing better than to make things square with your mother. But, unfortunately, it is, as she would say, grown folks' business."
"Have you considered jewelry?" All business, Jasmine pulled out a Tiffany's catalogue. "I saw a beautiful Amethyst bracelet I know she'd love."
"I would hope so, for that quote," Grant snorted, perusing the marked page.
"Are you saying my mama isn't worth it?"
"She is worth that and much, much more. Alas, given the circumstances..."
"So, you're saying this was more of a pink diamond level 'oops'?"
"Pink diamonds?" Grant deftly removed the catalogue from Jasmine's busy fingers. "If I thought your mother's forgiveness could be bought with jewelry, flowers, or candy, I'd have bought every pink diamond and amethyst, every flowering Jasmine, and every milk chocolate peach truffle I could round up."
"Couldn't hurt to try," Jasmine encouraged, her smile dropping when Grant continued to look at her regretfully. "What is it that happened exactly? Why is she mad at you? Was it about Mr. Fowler?"
"Now why would you think she and I argued about Mr. Fowler?" Grant asked, genuinely baffled by Jasmine's question even as he used it to avoid more dancing around the truth. It was bad enough lying to Lila, but Jasmine, too?
"I don't know," Jasmine shrugged not so innocently. "Maybe you told her as a real good friend would that he's not right for her? That there's someone else better, more suited?"
"And why would I say that?"
"Because he isn't! And she can do better. She already has. She had you. As a friend," Jasmine quickly added. "Unless you like her in that way, which would be awesome."
"Jasmine," Grant cut her off, his heart unable to take more of her hopeful eagerness, especially in light of his sins against her mother. "I-I don't deserve this. Your loyalty and your friendship...."
"What? Are you saying that just because you and Mama aren't friends anymore, you and I can't be? Why not? It's bad enough Lorna's in the hospital and Daddy says Uncle Jamie doesn't want anybody coming around, but now I can't see you either?"
"I'm sorry," Grant apologized grimly, Jasmine's dejected face prompting a new cascade of guilt to flow through him. "Your visits have been the highlight of many of my dullest days. You're what I imagine having a daughter would be like. Which is why I know we need to get you home before your parents discover your absence and become scared out of their minds."
"Wait! At least open your present!"
"Ladies first," Grant retrieved a purple and pink wrapped gift from under the decorated tree he hadn't gotten around yet to tossing it was the last thing Lila had bedecked for him, and presented it to a blushing Jasmine.
"Age before beauty," Jasmine grinned, pointing back at him.
"Age tells beauty to open her gift already."
Jasmine giggled, ripping it open. "Monogrammed golf gloves," she squealed, throwing herself into Grant's arms, hugging him tightly. "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"
"You're quite welcome."
"I'll be able to use these when you, me, and Kirkland go golfing in the spring. You and Mama will definitely be friends again by then. And then we can be friends again, too. You'll make things right somehow. I know you will."
"It would behoove you to listen to me," Carl advised Spencer, despite the latter's indicating that no, actually, it would not. "I shall shortly be launching an all-out assault against certain individuals of our mutual acquaintance. People whose obliteration would prove as beneficial to you, as to me."
"Why now?" Spencer wanted to know. "We've both been persona non-grata since Donna's little stunt with your passkey "
"And your stunt with her file."
"Which Lucas planted on Cecile dePouglinac's corpse. At your urging."
"Which you saw fit to give to my wife."
"And still," Spencer noted. "They've refrained from retaliating. Even after Donna's tell-all television appearance. Why in the world would you want to make the first move?"
"Because it isn't," Carl corrected gravely. "The first move has already been made. And not by me. Lucas believes Lorna's accident was no accident. It was a memorandum of displeasure. I'm afraid I've found no evidence so far to contradict his presumption."
"So you're striking back?"
"What choice do I have? Lorna's unborn child is Rachel's grandchild. That makes her a member of my family. I cannot allow such a personal attack to pass by unacknowledged. Today, it's Lucas' daughter. Tomorrow, it might be one of my own."
"Ah," understanding dawned for Spencer. "So that's it. You've had your first taste of chickens coming home to roost. And you didn't like it."
"Don't be daft. I have suffered plenty of consequences for my actions in the past. You don't consider a jail term adequate castigation?"
"Not even close," Spencer said with such absolute certainty, he compelled Carl to give the matter at least one more moment of thought. "The only penalties you've ever had to endure as a result of your misdeeds have been laid squarely on your own shoulders. You've never had to pay with the blood of someone you loved."
"I beg to differ! When I lost Ryan "
"When we lost Ryan," Spencer corrected pointedly. "It was a tragic accident, which had nothing to do with us directly, save the idiocy on both our parts of having loved a woman like Justine. Of course, without her, there would have never been a Ryan, so the situation hardly qualifies."
"Then I'm afraid I have failed to surmise your point."
"For the past fifteen years, give or take a slip up along the way, you've made quite the spectacle of your reformation. You claim great remorse, complete with crocodile tears and soulful breast-beating do spare us anymore melodramatic breast-beating! for your sins. But, you've never had to, as those of us without a classical education might phrase it: Put your money where your mouth is. You've been issued a free pass without having to pay the piper. And now you're terrified you actually might have to. And soon. That's what this is all about. You're finally willing to take responsibility for your actions. Because you finally have something to lose."
"It is imperative that I liquidate this threat before "
"It washes up on your doorstep?"
"Before Rachel and the children are affected in any way."
Spencer leaned back in his chair, tapped his thumbs one against the other and confessed freely, "I know exactly where you're coming from. I'm in precisely the same boat. For decades, I was free to make any decisions I liked, no matter how venial or potentially hazardous, because I had nothing to lose. Grant was presumed dead by a majority of the world. And Kirkland, ironically enough, was being raised under your roof and thus your protection. So I made decisions and investments; like the compound with no thought of repercussions. After all, there would only be me to suffer them. What was the worst that could happen? Everyone dies in the end. Might as well enjoy the little time I had left."
"Alice," Carl guessed sagely.
"Alice," Spencer confirmed. "I finally have someone I care about more than myself. And the state of affairs is frankly, terrifying."
"We didn't think, did we?" Carl commiserated.
"Oh, we thought. The problem was, we thought too much. You and I, Carl, we're both gamblers at heart. And the odds that anyone worthwhile could ever love someone like us... well, what self-respective gambler would play those numbers?"
"All the more reason for you to join forces with me, then. We can form a united front to protect both our families."
Spencer smirked. "There is an old Gaelic saying: Better fifty enemies outside the house than one within. Under what possible circumstances, Carl, would I ever trust you?"
"The very best circumstances; the very best, to be sure.... I am your only option."
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