"I think this is absolutely wonderful," Donna trilled to a somewhat befuddled Matt and Jeanne. "The two of you are perfectly suited to each other. I'm just amazed it took you both so long to realize it!"
"You're... okay with this?" Matt double-checked.
"Is there any reason I shouldn't be?"
"Well, no," he agreed, despite otherwise radiating "Hell, yeah," from more or less every pore. Realizing that his reaction might come off as a wee bit petulant, Matt attempted to feebly cover, "What I mean is, see, we were concerned there'd be a problem because..." a light-bulb went off. "Because Jeanne works here!" He looked at her for support. She nodded enthusiastically, encouraging him. "Right, yes. Jeanne works here. And I'm a part owner of the station. It could be interpreted as improper."
"We wouldn't want to do anything that might put us or you, Ms. Love at odds with the law," Jeanne agreed.
"Oh, please," Donna's dismissal managed to work on several levels at once. "Let me be the one to worry about that."
"So you have no problem with me seeing Jeanne?"
"Not a one," she all but beamed before turning, mock-sternly, to the younger woman and reminding, "Now, Jeanne, I hope this doesn't mean you'll be expecting any special treatment from now on, just because you've got the ear of my favorite silent partner."
"Oh, no," she reassured. "I wouldn't dream of it. I know exactly what it takes to get to the top around here."
"Splendid!" Donna waved a pair of perfectly manicured hands in their direction, subtly yet unmistakably shooing the couple out of her office at the same time. "Alright, then. Thank you for checking in with me, most thoughtful. I know I can count on you, Jeanne, to always have my interests, and those of the station, at heart."
"You can depend on me, Ms. Love."
"I hope so, my dear." Donna shut the door behind them, refraining from rolling her eyes until after she felt certain they'd gone away. "For your sake."
"Wow," Matt allowed Jeanne to lead him away from the office. "That certainly didn't go the way we were hoping for, huh?"
"Actually, it was pretty much what I expected."
"How about a little word of warning next time, then? Some prep time? I sounded like a complete idiot in there!"
"You were wonderful," Jeanne stood on her toes to kiss Matt on the lips, not caring who saw them. The sooner her colleagues realized what was what, the sooner Jeanne could... well, she wasn't sure precisely. But, she intended to give it serious thought shortly. "All red-faced and sweet and totally adorable. I bet you reminded Donna of precisely why she fell in love with you in the first place."
"Could've fooled me," Matt grumbled, sheepishly avoiding the gazes of former employees who now passed him in the hall, and got an eyeful for their trouble. "I don't think Donna gives a damn what I do these days."
"Oh, Matt," she sighed. "How did you ever manage without me?"
"Lorna is awake?" Grant double-checked with Kirkland as Marley merely stared at her giddy nephew in shock. "She's completely alright?"
"Dad said she aced everything the doctors threw at her."
"And the baby?" Marley ventured after finally remembering to breathe.
"Coasted her way through the whole thing like it was nothing," Kirkland beamed.
Grant allowed himself a small smile of relief. "Considering who her mother is that's no surprise. Lorna's always been a survivor."
"Kirkland, that's wonderful," Marley threw her arms around him. "I'm so happy for all of you."
"Yeah. I don't know how much more Dad could've taken with the waiting and the not knowing. It was killing him, you know? On top that, the cops still don't have a clue who did this to her."
Grant caught Marley's hand as it abruptly fell from Kirkland's shoulders, neatly covering her sudden hitch, and squeezed it reassuringly. "Well, now that Lorna's awake, I'm sure she'll be able to tell them something to assist in finding the culprit."
Kirkland shook his head. "Dad says she's pretty sketchy about what happened. I got a firm warning not to press her on anything. He wants Lorna in a stress-free zone to promote optimal healing, not to mention baby incubation. He says who did it isn't important. But, it just cheeses me how that jerk is still out there."
Another hitch from Marley, another save by Grant. "The key thing is that Lorna and the baby are awake and healthy. You have a lot to look forward to in the next few months."
Kirkland's face brightened again. "You're telling me. In, like, four months I'll have a new baby sister. It's crazy. And totally awesome." He stopped to take a breath. "You guys want to come along to the hospital? I'm on my way there now."
Grant coughed. "Given that Jamie is trying to create a stress-free zone for Lorna..."
"Right," Kirkland chuckled. "Better not to push it."
"Besides," Marley smiled at Kirkland. "Lorna is still getting her bearings. To have so many visitors stampeding through her room might be a bit much. Please convey to Lorna and Jamie how happy your father and I are for them, and that we'll personally pay a visit at a more appropriate time."
"Will do," her nephew saluted before dashing away.
Neither Marley nor Grant moved or made a sound until the roar of Kirkland's car faded into the distance.
Only then did Marley sink into the nearest available kitchen chair while Grant braced his arms against the edge of the counter, his head slowly dropping, his chin to his chest as he absorbed the news.
"They're... fine," Marley finally exhaled, shoulders sagging.
"They're fine," Grant confirmed.
She lifted her head to look at him, still in disbelief. "Lorna and the baby, they're... fine." Grant nodded, the movement of his head causing Marley to laugh, then sob, then laugh and sob in relief.
"Oh, my God," she laughed. "Oh, my God, Grant..."
"It's okay," Grant moved to crouch before her, squeezing her arms reassuringly. "Everything's okay now."
"She doesn't remember anything," Marley parroted Kirkland's declaration as though in a trance. "She doesn't remember what I did to her. It's like... It's almost like I've been... forgiven. Fate, karma, whoever, they know how sorry I am. And they've decreed my guilt is punishment enough." Marley exhaled a deep, cathartic breath and with it the last of her remorse and self-loathing. "It's over, Grant. All the uncertainty and fear and guilt. I can let it go. We can let it go and finally move on; be happy."
Grant faltered. "Marley, I don't... I mean, before Kirkland came in, you and I were "
"I know how I've treated you all these months, Grant. But, I just couldn't believe..."
"What? What couldn't you believe?"
"That we weren't fooling ourselves about how what happened what I did wouldn't come out. That I wouldn't have to leave you and the girls and go to prison."
"Marley, I told you I would never allow that to happen."
"I know what you said and I know you meant it. But even still... Who was I to escape punishment? Who was I to merit being happy? To dare enjoy my blessings; you and the girls. I had to be ready... I had to be prepared for when the time came, for when it all fell apart, so that after I was forced to leave, it wouldn't hurt so much."
"I love you, Grant. I'm sorry I hurt you by being too afraid to say it before. I didn't want to feel it. I didn't think I deserved to feel it after what I did. But now..." Marley lifted a hand to stroke Grant's cheek, looking into his eyes, at long last open to accepting the love she saw there. "We've been given another chance. And I'm not going to waste it or take it...you for granted. No pun intended," she added with a smile, getting a laugh of relief, joy, elation from Grant before he swooped her into his arms.
"Would you please state your name for the record?" Mel instructed; Rick, Mindy, and Kevin all wondering what she had up her sleeve now.
"Any relation to Alexandra Fowler?"
"No. Well, kind of. It's complicated. But, the last name is just a coincidence, I think."
"You and Mr. Todd are currently dating. Is that correct?"
"So when Mr. Todd wins custody of his son," Mel's choice of conjunction wasn't lost on anyone, especially Rick and Mindy. "You'll be a part of Hudson's life, as well?"
The question begged follow up, but Mel deliberately abstained. When she'd prepped Jen prior to testifying, Mel had been distinctively unimpressed by the vagueness and overall lack of enthusiasm varnishing her answers. Besides, Jen and GQ's relationship was just Mel's pretext for getting Jen on the stand. Her real purpose, Mel had only shared with GQ. And he'd given her permission to go ahead. Albeit reluctantly.
"Ms. Fowler, you have a great deal to contribute to the discussion we've been having throughout the course of this hearing. You're actually the only one in the room who can speak from experience about Black children being raised by white parents."
"Objection!" Kevin spoke up instinctively, before he'd even thought of just cause. "I It's Ms. Boudreau has laid no foundation for her line of questioning where this witness is concerned."
"But, Mr. Fowler has. You invoked your paternal relationship while cross-examining my client and implying that Hudson would be better off raised by the Bauers for a variety of reasons, including racial. Who better to address the subject you yourself brought up?"
The judge gave it some thought. "I'll allow it."
Jen shot Kevin a panicked look. He tried to smile reassuringly. Jen did not appear at all reassured. Her next glance was an accusatory one at GQ. He winced helplessly.
"Ms. Fowler, having been raised by a white parent, do you see any drawback to the practice?"
"No," Jen all but bit the word in half, glaring at Mel as if she were trying to make her burst into flames.
"None at all?" Mel smiled pleasantly. "How unusual. Most children can, as a rule, think of one or two things they didn't agree with about their upbringing."
"He wouldn't let me have slumber parties when I was a kid because he said he wasn't up to a dozen shrieking girls rampaging through our two bedroom apartment."
Kevin smiled lightly at that, remembering the argument that, by his count, lasted through all of Middle School. Mel seemed less enchanted by Jen's recollection.
"These rampaging, shrieking girls that you wanted to invite, were they Black or white?"
The question brought both Jen and Kevin up short.
"White," Jen said.
"Have you ever, at any time, had any close Black women friends?"
Jen hesitated, then admitted, "No."
"In college, did you join a Black sorority? AKA, maybe? I'm pretty sure they have a chapter at Yale."
"I'm not really a joiner."
"So that would be a no?"
"That would be a no."
"Can I assume then, when it came to issues of ethnic pride "
"What's the point in being proud of something you had no control over?" Jen interrupted. "It's like feeling proud of having moles or perfect pitch. And before you go claiming I'm ashamed, or, what's the expression? Self-hating? About being Black due to my deprived upbringing, let me make myself perfectly clear. There's a difference between not being ashamed, and taking unearned pride."
"Duly noted," Mel dismissed quickly, before moving on to, "Prior to Mr. Todd, had you ever dated anyone Black?"
"No," Jen hissed.
"And you don't see any of this as... atypical?"
"I am an African-American woman with an undergrad degree from Yale and a Master's from MIT in Cognitive Science. I've been atypical most of my life. You know, same as you. The one who was brought up by two, married, Black parents."
Jen snuck a peek at Kevin to gauge his reaction to her rejoinder. She expected he'd be pleased. Instead, her father looked worried. Which reminded Jen, too late, of his maxim: Don't piss off the opposing attorney on a personal level. They hate that.
Much to Kevin's surprise, however, Mel responded not with fire, but with empathy. "I know what it's like to be different," she told Jen. "I was a lot like you. Good girl, great student, overachiever with a capital O. And the higher up I went, the less and less could I find people who were anything like me. The only difference was, I had two parents who understood what I was going through. Parents who, when I came home, I could unburden myself to. And they would listen. And they would commiserate and maybe even offer solutions based on their own experiences."
"My dad would've..." Jen trailed off.
"I'm sure he would have." Here, Mel took a guess that didn't really feel like a guess at all. "If you'd ever told him. Did you ever tell your father about what you went through whenever you stepped outside the safety of his two-bedroom apartment? How you felt always being, at best, one of a few; at worst, the only one? Everywhere?"
"No! Okay? No, I didn't tell him."
"Because. I didn't want to sound like I was complaining. He did so much for me. He didn't have to, but he did. I didn't want him thinking... thinking I was... ungrateful."
"Was that all?" Mel pried.
"What do you mean?" Jen wiped her cheek with the back of one hand.
"Was that the only reason you kept your feelings to yourself? Or was it because, maybe, you knew your father simply wouldn't understand what you were talking about?"
"Objection!" Kevin had to force a lump out of his throat as he sprung to his feet. "If this isn't the definition of badgering your own witness...."
"Just one more question, Your Honor," Mel pleaded.
"One more," the judge warned. "And it better be on point."
"Ms. Fowler, in your opinion, don't you think that at least some of the problems we just referenced could have been avoided by you being placed in a Black adoptive home? By having parents who didn't just love you, as I am certain your father did, but who could actually support you the way you so desperately needed growing up? And even now?"
"That's two questions," Kevin roared, storming around the table and, in spite of the potential contempt of court charge, heading straight for Jen.
The expression on whose face answered everything that Mel and the court wanted to know. And Kevin didn't.
"Hey, check you out!" Kirkland clapped and whistled in appreciation when he caught sight of Lorna standing, shaky but nonetheless upright, by the side of her hospital bed, Jamie supporting her elbow, Lorna shooing him away to let her do it alone.
"Six steps," she boasted. "That's five more than I could do yesterday."
"And about four more than you should've tried today." Jamie did his best to play harsh-taskmaster as he eased her back into bed. A role somewhat difficult to pull off due to the goofy smiled he pretty much wore 24/7 these days.
"I've got to get back into fighting shape," Lorna insisted, giving Kirkland a quick peck on the cheek before she graciously allowed Jamie to make her rest again. "If I'm going to walk down the aisle on my own power, which I fully intend to do."
"So when's the big day?" Kirkland wondered. "I'm good to go for Best Man. Haven't outgrown my tux yet from Spencer and Alice's wedding. Though if you wait too long, I'm not making any promises."
"Soon," Lorna promised.
"It doesn't have to be," Jamie cautioned. Then, in response to the "excuse me, who was the one that didn't want to wait a minute longer to put a ring on my finger?" look on Lorna's face, clarified, "We don't have to rush anything. We can take our time, wait till you're feeling one hundred percent."
"No way," she corrected. "I thought we'd actually break tradition, and have somebody in this family born legitimate, for a change."
"She's got you there, Dad."
"And, on that note, when am I getting out of this place, Jamie?"
He blinked at her in disbelief. "You are nowhere near ready to go home yet. Your head injury still needs to be monitored."
"What's the point of sleeping with a doctor, if he can't take care of those things for me?"
"Not to mention the physical therapy."
"That's only once a day. I can do it as an outpatient. Please, Jamie," Lorna dropped the demanding tone for a more earnest one. "I've had enough of all this. I want to go home. We have so much to do, so many plans to make. I'm tired of waiting. Let's just get our lives together started already. What do you say?"
"I heard the good news about Lorna." Felicia looked up from the cemetery bench she'd been sitting on, studying Jenna's grave, needing to say so much she couldn't even think of where to start.
Sharlene stood beside her, one hand on Felicia's shoulder. She indicated Gregory's grave, a few yards away in a slightly newer section. "I was in the neighborhood...."
Felicia nodded, mutely, moving over so that Sharlene could take a seat next to her. For a long beat, neither one said a word, both simply staring straight ahead.
Finally, without turning her head, Felicia noted, "It's impossible to comprehend, isn't it? Unless you've been through it yourself..."
"I still don't understand it. And I've been trying since Gregory was twelve years old."
"It's not supposed to work this way. We aren't supposed to outlive our children. Parents and husbands and lovers and friends, yes. But, not our children."
Sharlene nodded slowly. "I would have traded them all for Gregory. I'd have done anything. Sacrificed anything."
"I think I did," Felicia confessed.
Sharlene cocked her head, curious, waiting for an explanation.
Felicia smiled joylessly. "The entire time Lorna was sick, I vowed that I would sacrifice anything, my own life, if it came to that, to make her well again. I made the universe an offer, and, what do you know, it took me up on it. Lorna is awake. She's going to make a full recovery. And all it cost me was Rachel. Cass. Lucas. And, if she ever finds out, most likely Lorna, too."
"No," Sharlene said harshly. She pointed to Jenna's grave. "You've lost Jenna. I've lost Gregory. Anyone else, as long as they're alive, they're not lost. Not for good. As long as they're alive, there is always the chance to make things right again."
"I hurt so many people. I knew I was doing it, too. I can't claim ignorance. I can't even claim I didn't mean to. There were times, as I was doing it, I knew I was causing pain. And I didn't care."
"Why shouldn't they suffer?" Sharlene articulated her own feelings over the past several months. "Why should your life be falling apart, why should there be this massive, black, inferno of pain in your chest where your heart used to beat, and other people be allowed to just go about their business, as if everything were normal? As if anything could ever be normal again? When I saw those kids brought into court to answer for my son's death, they all looked so damn... unchanged. How could they have helped Gregory die and remain unchanged? I felt like every cell in my body was ripped inside out. And they just stood there, their golden futures ahead of them, looking so..."
"Yes. How dare they be alive while Gregory was dead? They deserved to pay for that. And I was going to make them."
"I went to see Rachel," Felicia said. "It was about something else it's not important now; but then she started in on Jamie and how he was suffering, and I... I couldn't.... I heard the words coming out of my mouth. I couldn't stop them. I didn't want to."
"I've lost John," Sharlene said. "I mean, it's not as if I had him in the first place, I know that. But, things were okay between us. We'd finally gotten past the history and the pain and the betrayals," she couldn't help looking meaningfully at Felicia regarding the latter; a reminder Felicia knew she deserved and thus accepted without comment. "We may not have been friends, exactly, but we were still Gregory's parents. I went to see him a few weeks back. Donna told me he was in a bad place and would I reach out to him? I did. I think it helped. I hope it did. But, I also think it cemented John's feelings. He looks at me, and he sees the turmoil I brought to his life. I took a horrible, awful, excruciating situation, and managed to make it a million times worse. I don't think he will ever be able to forgive me for that."
"As long as they're alive," Felicia quoted. "There is always the chance to make things right again."
"I waited too long," Sharlene said. "If I'd just come to him right after Gregory died, we could have grieved together. But, I couldn't let go of my own pain to acknowledge he might be tormented too. So I went after him same way I did after everyone else. Maybe even more. Because, of all people, he'd let me down the most, by continuing to exist while our son didn't." She told Felicia, "You and I have always had a lot in common." No longer an accusation, merely a statement of fact. "We've made a lot of the same mistakes, too. Don't let this be one of them."
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|