"Whatever you're selling," Sharlene refused to open the farmhouse door all the way and let Donna in. "We don't want any."
"Please hear me out."
"Why should I?"
"Because it's about John. And he's Gregory's father."
"He was Gregory's father," Sharlene corrected through clenched teeth.
"No. You are both still Gregory's parents. He will always be your son, no matter what."
"I don't need advice on the proper way to mourn from you, Donna."
"I'm not here to give any."
"Then what do you want?"
"Well, for a start, to come in. Please, Sharlene. For John?"
Sharlene hesitated, then, glaring at her hands as if they were the only ones to blame and she actually had nothing to do with it at all, Sharlene reluctantly pulled back the door and watched Donna step inside.
"Is John alright?" Sharlene demanded.
"Of course, he isn't."
"Well, luckily he's got your mink-lined shoulder to cry into at night."
"As a matter of fact, he doesn't. I've moved out."
"Why?" Sharlene asked suspiciously.
"Marley needs me back home."
"That's not how I hear it."
"She needs me," Donna repeated confidently. "She just hasn't realized it yet."
"So, what? You turned around and dumped John without a second glance the minute you were done using him for your own purposes? Some friend you turned out to be."
"I did it for his own good."
"Right. Donna Love: Bay City's Good Samaritan."
"I'm trying to be," she confessed without a trace of irony. Her sincerity jolting Sharlene out of her agonized cocoon, forcing her to give Donna a second, curious glance.
"Are you serious?"
"I have a great deal to atone for."
"There's the understatement of the century."
"From the day I was born, I have spent every moment of the past fifty years "
Sharlene raised a disbelieving eyebrow.
Caught, Donna dutifully amended, "Past sixty... or so... years of my life, thinking only of myself, of what was best for me, of how I could come out ahead no matter what the cost."
"I'm trying to change. To put others first. To use what I've learned to help people I care about keep from making the same mistakes I have."
"And you've decided to kick off your Grand Rehabilitation Campaign with me? My God, Donna, you have some nerve. I lost my son to a vicious, unforgiving, non-discriminating disease. You gave your own daughter away, and got her killed trying to cover it up."
"I've paid for what I've done."
"You haven't even come close."
"Fine," Donna said calmly. "You are free to judge me in any manner you like; to call me any names you like. As I said at the start, I'm not here for myself. I'm here for John. And for you, as well. You and John, you shouldn't be holed up, each in your own respective hell, licking your wounds alone, pushing everyone else away. You need each other right now. Desperately."
"I warned you about preaching to me."
"I'm not preaching. I'm asking. Begging, really. John told me can't bear to look at you. Because all he sees in your face as soon as he does is Gregory. Gregory blaming John for letting him die."
"No..." Sharlene shook her head. "No. Gregory didn't blame John... It wasn't John's fault. What he said at the funeral... He was wrong. He couldn't have prevented..."
"He believes he could have. It's killing him, Sharlene. He thinks he was responsible for his son's death. And you are the only one who can convince him otherwise."
"Has Allie been down yet today?" Amanda asked Rachel when she got back to the house.
"Not that I've seen, I'm afraid."
"I'm worried about her," Amanda said.
"You should be."
"Gee, thanks, Mom."
"Oh, for goodness' sake, Amanda, I didn't mean it that way," Rachel scolded, fed up. "I was just agreeing with you."
"Sorry," she mumbled. "I guess I'm just Alice thinks we should watch Allie for signs of clinical depression."
"She's right, I suspect."
"Do you think I ought to make her see somebody? Like a psychiatrist?"
"That might not be a bad idea."
Amanda sighed. "Oh, Allie will just love that. She'll blame me, you know she will."
"I'm familiar with the tendency."
Amanda cocked her head. "Is this the part where you tell me how everything you've ever done has been for my own good, whether I realized it or not?"
"That was implied," Rachel smiled and squeezed Amanda's hand reassuringly. "We'll get Allie through this. Did Alice recommend anyone in particular?"
"I'll ask her," Amanda said, then commended sincerely, if somewhat slyly. "Very good, Mom. You managed to say Alice's name without steam coming out of your ears."
"Alice was a huge help to Jamie when he had... when he was sick. If I couldn't be there for him, I'm glad at least someone else who cared was. Based on her experience, if Alice has an opinion about Allie's mental health, I want to hear it."
"I'm amazed Alice still wants a thing to do with any of us, frankly, after the kind of trouble Allie and Steven got her into."
"My understanding is that it was Kevin's Jen who actually came to her and asked Alice to help Gregory."
"At least Jen kept her mouth shut afterward. So did Allie and Steven. Leave it to Lila "
"What?" Rachel cut her daughter off. "What are you talking about?"
"Lila," Amanda said. "She was the one who made the anonymous call to the police about Alice being involved."
"Don't be absurd," Rachel dismissed. "Why would Lila do that?"
"Because she was mad at him."
"Again, Mom, do you have to sound quite so disbelieving? Is it really that difficult to wrap your brain around the notion that another woman might interpret my sleeping with her boyfriend as a threat?"
"But, what makes you think Lila was the guilty party?"
"She confessed," Amanda said smugly.
"To me. To Kevin. He broke up with her over it."
"Oh, Amanda," the hand squeezing portion of their conversation was clearly over. Time, once again, for frowning and disapproval. "What have you done...."
"What do you mean 'do' with him?" GQ repeated Jen's question while bouncing Hudson on his lap, turning the crank of a Jack-in-the-Box to distract the boy from the fact that the couple he thought of as Mommy and Daddy had just walked out the door.
"We've got two hours to kill," she replied sensibly. "Did you have a plan in mind?"
"I..." GQ looked around. "I've got some toys."
In response, Hudson picked up the Jack-in-the-Box with both hands and hurled it to the ground. His lower lip curled up to suck on his upper one. He blinked furiously and his chin began to quiver. He was not happy.
GQ handed Hudson the ball Mindy had rolled to him earlier. That went flying, too. A teddy bear held the baby's attention only until he'd convinced himself he couldn't wrench one shiny, black button eye off. A Tonka truck seemed to be getting the job of entertaining him done, until Hudson accidentally ran the sturdy toy tires over his own hand, shrieked in offense, and glared accusingly at GQ and Jen.
"Oh," GQ said. "This is what you meant by 'do'."
"Well," GQ sat back on his heels, pondering the tot, then looking back to Jen. "You're the cognitive expert. What makes a kid this age respond positively?"
"Beats me," Jen said. "I can tell you how many neurons he has, and methods to stimulate his dendrite connections. But, what he'd actually like... that's outside my department."
GQ glanced through the window, getting a brainstorm, and suggested, "We could take him sledding! Mindy said she dressed him warm enough to go outside."
"You have a sled?
"Yeah. I got one the other day. Thought it might come in handy."
"Oh-kay...." Jen acquiesced cautiously, looking at the pile of clothes Mindy had peeled off Hudson when they initially came in. "But, you have to be the one to get him back into all that."
"No problem," GQ said. "Between all the advanced degrees in this room, we ought to be able to figure out a little kid's snowsuit."
And it only took them fifteen minutes. With Hudson battling mightily for a good fourteen and thirty seconds of them.
"Are you sure your kid's only got two arms and two legs?" Jen asked at the conclusion of the endeavor. "Sure felt like a lot more, for a while there."
Once finally dressed, though, Hudson did grin and clap in delight at being pulled along in the sled, scooping up the clumps of snow that landed on him with both mittened hands and rubbing his face in it.
GQ and Jen might have had a good time then, too. If it weren't for the fact that Rick and Mindy were sitting grimly in their parked car across the street from GQ's apartment house, watching every move the three of them made.
"What are you doing in here?" Kirkland opened the door to Lorna's home-office, catching Charlie standing by her desk, hand still on the knob to her desk's top drawer.
"Looking for a ruler," she answered even as Kirkland's eyes darted to the one sitting in plain view on the desktop. "Oh. Wow. Totally missed it."
"Seriously?" The question was less about the ruler and more about Charlie's blatant snooping.
"I was curious!" Charlie defended, sitting back in Lorna's leather chair and giving it a spin. "It's not every day I get a chance to check out the ice queen's lair."
"Do I even have to explain to you how many different kinds of wrong this is?"
"It's not like she'll ever know. She's kind of a vegetable at the moment. Maybe for good."
"Come on," Kirkland said stiffly. "We've still got our report to finish."
"I'm doing my own research project," Charlie teased, reaching for another drawer.
"Uh, no, you're not. Stop fooling around."
"Make me." Charlie hunkered down in the chair and put her feet up on the desk.
"I told you to get out of here."
"And I said 'make me'. I'm not doing anything wrong."
"You're invading Lorna's privacy."
"Lorna doesn't have any privacy. Hey, did you know your Dad's girlfriend posed for some very, very dirty pictures when she was a kid, like our age? Elizabeth showed me. They're on the Internet. So, that whole privacy thing? I wouldn't worry about it. Besides, Lorna has no problem poking her nose into other people's personal business. She railroaded my dad into prison, then tried to steal Lori Ann from us. When my mom stood up to her, Lorna got her back by bringing Dean to town so he could take Lori Ann away. I'd watch your back if I were you, Kirk. First she screwed over your Uncle Matt, now she's moved on to your dad."
"You really think all that stuff was Lorna's fault?"
"What's that they call it in math? Common denominator? You think it's a coincidence that any time something goes wrong, Lorna is right there in the thick of it?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"That's because the bitch's got you as whipped as your dad. She cheated on him with my Uncle Morgan well, technically I guess she cheated on my Uncle Morgan with your dad and he's still defending her! In court!"
"Lorna didn't cheat on Dad."
"Oh, brother," Charlie rolled her eyes. "Does my midterm grade seriously depend on somebody this stupid? My uncle's got proof, what more do you need?"
"More than his word and some stupid piece of paper, that's for sure."
"You think he's lying?" Charlie laughed in disbelief.
"People lie," Kirkland answered evenly, speaking from experience.
"You mean Winthrops lie."
"I didn't say that."
"Screw you!" Charlie pushed herself up from Lorna's desk and marched out of the office, the slam of Kirkland's front door declaring her huffy departure.
"I'll show you," Charlie muttered, pulling the document she'd found stuck in the back of Lorna's drawer out of her pocket. "I'll show all of you who the real liar is."
"Yes, Jeanne?" Donna looked up from her desk at KBAY. "What is it?"
"I went down to the archives this morning. They told me you'd checked out the complete b-roll footage from the Harrison Election Day special."
"Why were you looking for it?"
Jeanne ignored the question to note, "I've worked for you for almost four years now."
"That's right," Donna nodded cautiously.
"I came in as Associate Producer. It took me three years to get promoted to Producer."
"Well deserved. You've put together some excellent pieces for us. You're very talented. And hard-working."
"I'm happy you think so. I feel I'm ready to move up to Senior Producer," Jeanne said.
The two women locked eyes over Donna's desk. Neither one said anything. Neither one had to.
Donna pondered her options. Donna realized she didn't have any.
She smiled. The expression in her eyes contradicting any possible warmth the expression may have suggested otherwise.
She told Jeanne, "I do believe you're right. I'll contact Human Resources immediately."
"Thank you, Ms. Love," Jeanne said. "You won't be sorry."
"I don't intend to be."
"Why did you ask me to put you on the stand, today?" Kevin asked Lucas, indicating that, while he'd posed the question, Lorna's father should answer directly to the judge.
"Because," Lucas said, turning his head it was easier to avoid Felicia's crushed glower that way. "I felt that the testimony given by Dr. Winthrop and... my wife, didn't paint an accurate picture of my daughter. Rather, it didn't paint an accurate picture of who my daughter is today. The Lorna they were both talking about... she hasn't been that Lorna for a while now."
"Felicia was right about one thing. Lorna does have a hard time believing she deserves to be loved. Especially by someone who she perceives to be a better person than she is. But, see, Dr. Frame Jamie finally disabused her of that notion. He persuaded her to have faith. He made her feel that not only did he love her, but that she was worth it. It's true, Lorna has sabotaged her own happiness in the past. Not this time. She was in this relationship for the long haul. She wanted it all. Jamie, their baby, a complete family. She was even starting to trust that she might get it, too."
"So, in your opinion, this child is undeniably Dr. Frame's?"
"Again with the opinions?" Stacey stood up.
"If your witness is entitled to hers, so is mine."
"Fine," Stacey said. "As long as the court keeps in mind that Dr. Winthrop is Ms. Devon's husband in fact not opinion."
"Duly noted. Proceed, Mr. Fowler."
"Thank you, Your Honor." He addressed Lucas once again, "Do you feel Dr. Winthrop is correct when he expresses his opinion of what Ms. Devon would like us to do for her under these circumstances?"
"No," Lucas said firmly.
"Because, same as Felicia, Morgan is talking about a different Lorna. Once upon a time, I'd have agreed with him. Lorna was out for Number One, no one else. She did take pride in being a survivor and of making cold-blooded, ruthless decisions when she had to. Twenty years ago, fifteen, five, even, maybe, if faced with a choice of her life or her baby's, probably then yes, she would have agreed to an abortion. But, only a few months ago," Lucas looked at Jamie, who had his head down, his expression unreadable. "My daughter came to me, willing to make a sacrifice that was very nearly a matter of giving up her own life for someone else's. For Dr. Frame's. That's the woman she is now. I'm not saying it's all because of Jamie. Lorna always had a good heart. That's why she had to be so diligent about keeping it hidden and locked away. She was always a good person. The difference is now, she can finally accept that about herself."
"Your witness," Kevin told Stacey.
Morgan's sister rose from her chair and approached the witness stand. She asked Lucas, "When did you first learn that Lorna Devon was your biological child?"
"1993," Lucas said.
"So she was already an adult by then?"
"And what was your reaction to the news?"
"That's no secret, Ms. Winthrop. I was aghast, no more, no less. I didn't want anything to do with her for months. But that was because, like some other people in this room, I was judging Lorna based on who I thought she was, not on who she genuinely is."
"And when, precisely, did you find time to arrive at this contradictory assessment of Ms. Devon's virtues? Weren't you absent from Bay City, presumed dead, as a matter of fact, from soon after in 1993 until a little over a year ago?"
"Yes," Lucas declined to elaborate.
"Yet you insist that you actually understand Ms. Devon better than her mother, who has been there for Lorna, through thick and thin, these past seventeen years? Or Dr. Winthrop, who actually married her over six years ago?"
"Yes." Again, no elaboration.
"You'll forgive my cynicism."
"I don't give a damn about your cynicism or anything else."
"Your Honor," Stacey appealed. "I move that the witness' testimony be stricken from the record. He clearly has nothing pertinent to contribute, and is merely being combative."
Kevin interjected, "Why should the personal opinion of Ms. Devon's father carry any less weight than that of her mother?"
"How about because her mother actually knows Ms. Devon, while her father is a virtual stranger?"
"That's not true," Lucas thundered.
"How else would you describe a man who's only been in his daughter's actual physical presence for, what, a handful of times over a period of almost twenty years?"
"It's been a hell of a lot more than that."
"Alright then, let's say an even dozen?"
"How about three straight years?" Lucas challenged. "Three years during which Lorna confided in me a hell of a lot more than she confided in either Fanny or Morgan, I can tell you that for certain."
"What are you talking about, Luke?" Felicia's voice was soft, stunned. But it managed to reach Lucas despite the yelling and gavel banging around them. "What three years?"
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