"It was never my intention to have your mother take the blame for getting Alice Frame arrested," Rachel assured Jasmine. "She made that decision on her own."
"To protect me," Rachel said softly, still stirred by the generosity of Lila's action. "Your mother is a remarkable person, Jazz."
Jasmine refused to be swayed or distracted. "Protect you from what?"
"Not what. Whom. Several 'whoms,' rather. Your Uncle Jamie and Aunt Amanda are rather fond of.... I'm not sure how much you know about my history with Dr. Frame."
"Just what I've Googled."
Rachel sighed. Whatever happened to the days when gossip was the only trail you left behind? "What I did, I did to protect your cousins. I couldn't bear for anything more to happen to Allie, or for Steven to be punished because he helped a friend. Steven has a hard enough time with normal, human relationships as it is. He didn't need the negative feedback. Do you understand?"
"I do. And I bet Uncle Jamie and Aunt Amanda will, too. You're their mama."
"Do you immediately forgive your mother when she does something you don't like?" Rachel felt obliged to remind. "I believe we're all still under gag orders as it concerns discussing the Little Miss Bay City incident."
Jasmine's cheeks flushed. "I'm working on letting that one go. But, anyhow, that's me blaming Mama for something she did. No fair for her to get blamed over something she didn't. I mean, if you did what you thought was right, then it was right and you have no reason to hide it. Right?"
"I'm afraid it's not that simp...." Rachel began, drifting as the uncompromising look on her granddaughter's face, complete with the crossed-arm posture somehow arranged itself into a perfect replica of Jasmine's great-grandmother, Ada.
And if there was one person Rachel couldn't ignore an order to shape up and fly right from, it was her own mother. Even in the body of a twelve year old.
"Very well," Rachel scowled, unable to shake the feeling that she'd somehow become the child in this conversation, and Jasmine the adult. "You win. I'll come clean."
"Hi, Leah," Kevin smiled at Rick and Mel's daughter, indicating the courtroom and her spot on the witness stand. On either side of him, Leah's parents sat on the edge of their seats, wondering that Kevin had up his sleeve. "Do you know why you're here?"
"Because Hudson's biological father wants to take him away from my Dad and Mindy."
"How do you feel about that?"
"I think it would blow for everybody. Especially Hudson. He doesn't know this other dad of his. If I were him, I'd be totally freaked out."
"Mr. Todd and your mother allege that your father and stepmother would be incapable of raising Hudson to fully appreciate his African-American identity. They claim that not knowing who he is or understanding how the world might perceive him will make it harder for Hudson to function in American society. It might even prove physically dangerous for him. Rick and Mindy, on the other hand, assert that African-American is only a part of who Hudson is. That he is, in fact, bi-racial, and that they are prepared and committed to bringing him up as such. As someone who has the most firsthand experience in the matter, how do you think your dad will do raising a bi-racial child?"
Leah shrugged. "I don't know."
"Excuse me?" Kevin faked confusion equally as well as Mel had when cross-examining Jen earlier. It was a pre-requisite for graduating from law school.
"I don't know because I don't walk around feeling like I'm being raised a bi-racial child. I'm just Leah. My mom's Black, my dad's white, who cares?"
Kevin waited a moment for her words to sink in, before proceedings. "That's certainly not the attitude your mother has been putting forth in court on Mr. Todd's behalf."
"I'll be honest with you. My mom and I don't really talk about stuff like this. All I know is how she acts when I'm around."
"And how would that be?"
"Well, one Christmas, when my parents were still married, after we'd opened our presents, and right before we were going to have breakfast, my dad said no, there was one more surprise he had for us. He went to the closet and brought out these really detailed masks he'd made out of leaves and sticks. Some of them were birds, some were animals. He'd made one for each of us. He started talking about Johnkankus, which was the first African-American festival to happen in the US. It started in Africa. It's supposed to commemorate this chief. They celebrated it in the West Indies, and the South a long time ago. People don't do it much anymore, but Dad thought it might be fun. Oh, and educational. He's real big on making sure everything's educational. He got us drums to bang and everything. While he was talking, my mom just started laughing. Dad thought she was laughing at him. But, no, she gets up and goes to the kitchen, and she brings out this baking sheet with some seriously ugly lumps of dough sort of burned into it. Turns out my mom went on the Internet and got a recipe for Lebkuchen, which is this German spice cookie my great-grandfather, Frederick that's who Dad is named after used to bake on Christmas to remind him of where he'd come from. We all assumed they looked better when Papa Bauer made them. My mother, she really can't bake."
Kevin smiled. "That sounds fun. And loud. And chewy."
"It was. Then my parents split up and... that was that. Sucks, but what can you do?"
"Even after the divorce, though, as far as you know, your mother had no problem with you embracing both sides of your ethnic heritage? She certainly didn't think it would damage you in any way? Make you incapable of functioning as an adult?"
"My mom had a lot of problems with my dad after the divorce. The words 'blonde' and 'bimbos' may have come up. Several times. But, that other stuff? No."
"So would you say you were perfectly comfortable being raised bi-racial?"
"Again. I don't know what that is. I'm just me. And my parents are just my parents. It's like when people ask, "What are you?" and I tell them, "I'm Leah Bauer." "No," they say, "I mean, what race?" And I say, "Human."
"Steven and Kirkland stopped by while you were asleep," Jamie filled Lorna in as he placed a breakfast tray over her lap in the bed. "They didn't want to disturb you. This," Jamie indicated the food. "Is from Kirkland. A Welcome Home gift."
Lorna laughed out loud, surveying her choices, which included individual tasting portions of scrambled eggs, waffles, pancakes, French toast, bacon, sausage, home fries, orange juice, milk, and ice water with a wedge of lemon. "Does he think I'm eating for twelve?"
"He wasn't sure what you might be in the mood for. He didn't want to make you turn green, again. And this," Jamie handed her the next offering. "Is from Steven." He craned his neck to read the title. "The Complete Gilmore Girls DVD Set?"
She smiled. "Inside joke."
"You and my son have inside jokes now?"
"You got a problem with that?"
He reached for the final present. "This is from me."
"A baby name book?"
"It occurred to me, she's going to need one of those down the line. And I believe it's up to us to pick one."
"Oh, don't worry. I've got that covered. How does Jamie Frame Jr. strike you?" In response to the look on his face, Lorna teased, "What? It's good enough for a boy, why not a girl? Jamie can work for a girl. Let's shake things up a bit."
"I It's not that." He protested with a seriousness Lorna hadn't expected at all. "It's it's not really my name."
"What are you talking about? James Gerald Frame. I've seen your driver's license."
"It shouldn't have been. I was named after Russ' dad, Jim Matthews. Because my mother let everyone believe he was my grandfather. Steve had to legally adopt me later. And Jim never ended up with any grandchildren named after him. Because of me. I know it wasn't my fault. I didn't have anything to do with what happened. But, I still don't like thinking about it too much."
"Damn," Lorna said. "I thought I knew every possible way a parent can screw up their kid. Apparently, I was wrong." She looked up at him. "Even picking a name gives you a million places to go wrong. What if I totally blow it, Jamie?"
"As long as we stay away from Apple, Audio Science or Kal-El, I think everything else is pretty much fair game."
"I don't mean the name. I mean the whole raising children thing. What do I know about bringing up a normal, well-adjusted, happy girl? I certainly never fit the bill."
"Nobody knows anything. We're all just making it up as we go along. Every time I look at Steven and Kirk, I'm half-waiting for their repressed Vicky and Grant to come bursting out. Or their Donna. Or my mother."
"I'm okay as far as the baby and little kid stuff goes... I think," Lorna chewed her thumbnail thoughtfully. "I had my grandmother. She did the best she could in spite of the pain in the ass I turned out to be. But, anything past elementary school... My God, you know where I ended up just out of elementary school."
"I do." He sat down next to her. "And I understand it's because your adoptive parents died, and your grandmother was sick, and there was no one to look after you properly. That won't happen here."
"I don't even know what normal little girls like these days. Pink and frilly dresses? I hated that stuff, no matter how many outfits Gran sewed for me. I used to beg her to let me dress like Lauren Hutton. And what about books? You're supposed to read to your baby every night, right? I haven't even leafed through The Great Gatsby, much less those Sweet Valley High things I see on the store shelves that never seem to end. Or, what's a Goosebump? Hell, Jamie, Harry Potter puts me to sleep. When I'm not thinking that the kid didn't have it all that bad under the stairs. At least he was left alone. Is I Ching proper bedtime reading material? How about The Art of War? How to Betray Friends and Eviscerate People?"
"Okay, you made that last one up."
"Normal first time mothers have other women friends they can go to for advice. I don't have any women friends. That is not a good omen. Not to mention my relationship with my own mother. Who doesn't know anything about raising kids anyway, since we were all adults by the time "
"I see you've been giving this a lot of consideration. Most of it overwrought."
"I have been. Ever since Lori Ann... I started looking into all this stuff, then. What was I thinking, Jamie? Cass and Frankie were right. I have no business raising a little girl."
"So what do you think?" Chase asked Lila after giving her a tour of his Mayoral Public Relations and Communications department, leading her back into his City Hall office for the verdict.
"You can be brutally honest."
"Have any of them stepped outside this building in the past twenty-five years?"
"I can't be sure. They came with the job."
"Everything they do is so... old school."
"Which is where you come in. I loved what you did for Grant's campaign. The look, the energy, the social media, the accessibility, all of it."
"By a lot fewer votes than he should have. The man's been to jail. He killed his own brother. He was dead for a decade!"
"He's got a winning smile and good hair. It carries a lot of weight."
"Not with you, it would seem."
She refused to let Chase see how much the betrayal still hurt, rebutting with a dismissive, "What can you do? First, Grant throws me under a bus. Then, my lawyer "
Lila shrugged. "Men. Right?"
"I wouldn't know."
"Oh, please." She made a circle with her thumb and forefinger, and flicked it dismissively on his shoulder. "Are you trying to tell me you're so irresistible that no son-of-a-bitch has ever broken your heart?"
"That's what I'm telling you, alright."
"I call bull."
"Doug and I have been together for going on twenty years now."
"And before that?"
He shook his head. "There was no before that."
It took her a minute to comprehend what he was telling her. "You mean, Doug is the only..."
"Yup." If Chase was embarrassed by his admission, he certainly didn't show it.
Lila couldn't fight the feeling she was being put on. Yet, he seemed so sincere. And quite frankly, what would be the point of lying to her about something like this? "That... It doesn't sound like... you."
"You mean because I'm abrasive and obnoxious?"
"On a good day."
He smirked. "All the more reason to stick with the one person who could stand me."
"Doug's the only person you've ever been with?"
"And yet I'm allowed to mingle with regular people on a daily basis. Go figure."
"No! I didn't mean... Sorry... It's very sweet. Romantic. And...."
"In this day and age? Kind of, yeah."
"Take it as a character reference. Unlike Misters Harrison and Fowler, I know what it means to be loyal. As an employer, and as a friend."
"How did you and Doug meet?" she wondered. "How old were you? How did you know he was it? How could you be sure? And how did you manage not to screw it up even once in twenty years?"
"Come work for me," he proposed. "And I'll tell you my life story. I promise you won't be disappointed. In either."
"You knew that Carl and Spencer were going to war against their former associates, and you didn't see a need to fill me in?"
Grant hesitated. He would have expected the accusation to come from Marley wrapped in barely suppressed hysteria and horror. But, instead, she was calm. Eerily calm. Too calm. She stood over Grant's desk, waiting for him to answer. Waiting for him to react.
Which was precisely why he didn't. Not until he'd settled on an optimal response. The entire situation was much too precarious for him to risk going off half-cocked.
"You had other things on your mind," Grant began tentatively. "You didn't need the additional burden."
"I didn't need to know that people might be trying to kill me?" she asked, incredulous.
"They won't," Grant insisted. "I've hired security for you and Kirkland to "
"They have," Marley said, dully.
"What?" He leapt out of his chair, walking around the desk in the time it took Marley to fill him in about her recent drugging, and Carl's confession. "Carl has some serious nerve..."
"At least he saw fit to tell me the truth."
Grant challenged, "Why would you believe him about anything, ever? For all you know, he might have drugged you himself."
"Why?" Marley shrugged, turning both hands, palms upward. "What reason could Carl possibly have to "
"You know how Carl feels about me. Which means anyone I care about is fair game."
"To what end? Okay, so let's say it was Carl who drugged me. I got a headache, passed out, maybe lost a sale or two at the gallery. This is his nefarious plan to get back at you? Seems a bit... underwhelming, Grant. No offense. And besides, he did tell me the truth about what he and Spencer are up to. You just confirmed it."
"I'm sorry, Marley. I'd hoped to protect you from all this."
"Well, you failed," Marley told him sharply. "And if I'm a target to be used against Donna, that means the children are, too. Bridget and Michele, Kirkland..."
"I'll step up your security," Grant swore.
"No," Marley said. "Carl offered to deploy a portion of his team. He feels guilty for dragging me and the kids into this. I'm going to accept."
"I'm sorry, Grant. But, I'm afraid I can't trust you anymore."
"Scheming little tramp," Donna fumed, pacing back and forth in front of a seated John, whose initial look of disinterest followed by boredom eventually morphed into amusement and curiosity regarding how long she could keep this up.
"So you've said," he drawled. "Several times."
"How a smart man like Matthew could have fallen for such a "
"Matt does have a documented taste for beautiful, if less than morally upstanding, women."
"Are you honestly lumping me in with "
"Lila and Lorna, you bet. In fact, the resemblance physical and otherwise is kind of striking. Even Josie, who you know I'm crazy about, was no angel. Jeanne seems to fit the pattern perfectly."
"What about Sofia Carlino?" Donna dared.
"Matt tends to waver between the Madonna and Whore paradox. Sofia, as far as I recall, was the other extreme, Convent Girl: Part Two. She even looked like Jenna."
At the mention of her late biological daughter's name, Donna startled, the fight and fun going out of her tirade.
"That's what you get for dwelling on this," John said lightly.
"I am merely concerned about Matthew, that's all." Donna finally sat down beside John. "Jeanne is a manipulative, conniving, grasping gold-digger..."
"And none of your concern," he reminded.
"When I left the hospital, I vowed that matters were going to be different from now on. I was going to stop thinking only about myself, and focus on other people."
"Yes," John sighed. "Have I mentioned yet how grateful we, the people, are for your new endeavor?"
"I was right about you and Sharlene, wasn't I?"
"You were right that we needed to talk. You were right that we needed to start letting go of our anger. Towards fate and towards each other. I've already thanked you for that."
"You are most welcome."
"Everything else, on the other hand..."
"I'm right about that, too. You'll see. You and Sharlene belong together. If anything good is to come out of Gregory's death, it should be that."
John grunted, his opinion already on the record and thus not essential to repeat.
"As for Matthew "
"Here we go..."
"I intend to make it clear that I believe Jeanne is the perfect woman for him."
"Okay," John conceded. "That was unexpected."
"Obviously, the only reason he paraded that little siren into my office was in a futile attempt to make me jealous."
"Obviously," John was back in bemused mode.
"Her sole appeal is in provoking me."
"I've seen Jeanne on TV," John mused. "I'd say that wasn't her sole appeal."
"Well, I'll be damned if I shall be giving Matthew what he's after. I'll become his and Jeanne's biggest supporter, if it comes to that. If only so that he might come to see for himself what a mistake he's making."
"That's a brilliant idea. I can't imagine any way for it to backfire on you."
"Stop it. I know what I'm doing. And I know why I'm doing it."
"Again, that last one...."
"It's for his own good," Donna swore. "I didn't save Matthew from myself in order to let him fall into Jeanne Ewing's ghastly clutches."
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