“Save it,” Lila suggested to Grant as soon as she caught sight of him waiting in her office at City Hall. Having punched her way through a wall of reporters on the way in, Lila felt highly inclined to keep on swinging. “I know it was you who ratted Chase and me out to Amanda.”
“Did Amanda say – “
“No. But, Chase told me you threatened to do it a few days back, and lookee here, what do you know?”
“That’s hardly conclusive evidence.”
“You going to deny it?”
He seriously considered the option, then sadly shook his head. “No.”
“Well, thank you for that, at least.” Lila crossed over to her desk, gathering up piles of papers and indiscriminately stuffing them into files to present a reasonable facsimile of being busy. Even if she then, just as busily, proceeded to lay the papers out again.
“I did it for your own good!” Grant beseeched.
“I told you to save it. And don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
“Please try to understand.”
“Don’t feel like it.”
“Do you really think this relationship with Chase has any chance in Hell of ending well? Forget his twenty year relationship, forget the kid they have, the man is gay, Lila. If that doesn’t scream He’s Just Not That Into You – “
“How about you let me be the judge of that?”
“No. I won’t. Because you’re not thinking straight.”
“Pun intended?” Lila queried.
But, Grant was on too much of a roll to get the joke. He went on, “You think that just because everything is wonderful now, it’s going to stay wonderful. But, it can’t. The pair of you are too different. Even if you want the same thing today, that’s bound to change tomorrow. It has to. You are in completely different places in your lives, which means eventually you’ll move in opposite directions, and the longer you’ll have been together at that point, the harder it will be to end things, the more it will hurt. I was trying to spare you, Lila. To make you see the futility of your situation before you got any deeper into it. I was trying to do right by you!”
Lila raised her head slowly, meeting Grant’s eyes for the first time since she’d come in. “We still talking about me and Chase, here?”
“Really?” Lila pressed, giving Grant a look that screamed she knew he was full of it.
Grant fought the look for as long as he could. Before breaking down and conceding, “No.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere.” Lila gestured for Grant to take a seat, then pulled up a chair right next to him. “Forget Chase and me for a minute. I know what happened. He threatened you, you threatened him, then in place of taking out a ruler and measuring dangling, bodily appendages, you both threw little temper tantrums, he-man-style.”
“I really was trying my best to take care of you. He’s going to break your heart, Lila.”
“You let me worry about that. I’m a big girl, I can take care of myself. Now, that child you crushed when you ran off and married Marley, on the other hand…”
“That was for Sarah’s own good, too.”
“Ah-ha,” Lila nodded knowingly. “Now we’re getting somewhere. All your talk about doing the right thing and putting people you care about first… You were talking about Sarah, I knew it. Jesus Christ, Grant,” she echoed Rachel’s earlier query. “What were you thinking?”
“I was thinking that Sarah deserved better than to waste her life and her youth on me.”
“Did she get a vote in the matter?”
“She doesn’t see the big pictures. She’s too far gone. Same as you with Chase.”
“One more time: You take a little break from throwing stones till you’ve gotten your own glass house in order, you hear me?”
“I did what was best for Sarah. I let her go so she can find someone who might truly make her happy in the long run.”
“And Marley? Where does she fit into your all-new, self-sacrificing lifestyle?”
“Marley and I can have a good life together. We understand each other. We’re… compatible.”
Lila shook her head, equally exasperated and sympathetic. “Ain’t that romantic?”
“You lied to the police,” Kirkland told Charlie as they drove back to school, Frankie, Cass and Jamie having let them go with a stern warning to behave – or else.
“I did not. I told them the truth. I did come on to you while you were driving, New Year’s Eve.”
“Yeah. But, that’s not what caused the accident.”
“It was a contributing factor.”
“I crashed my car because I freaked out. And it wasn’t over that.”
“You freaked out because I wouldn’t stop hounding you about why you’d been acting so weird ever since Labor Day. The accident was just as much my fault as yours, I didn’t lie to the cops about that.”
“My dad knows we didn’t tell the whole truth.”
“You think he’ll rat us out?”
“I – I don’t think so.”
“Then we’ve got nothing to worry about.”
“Why did you do it, Charlie? I mean, you could have just let me take the blame. Told them what really went down. All of it.”
“No, I couldn’t. First of all, you said you had to keep what happened with you and your grandfather and the kidnapping this Summer a secret, or more people might get hurt. I didn’t spill my guts right after the accident, I wasn’t going to do it later. I know how to keep my mouth shut. And second of all, my mom and dad had no right to do what they did. Suing your friends isn’t cool. If we’d all gone to court, it might have really messed up stuff between us. And I don’t want that. Especially not now.”
“Now,” Kirkland repeated, blushing.
“The other night,” he began, keeping both eyes on the road. “That was… cool.”
“It’s different now,” Charlie said. “We’re not just dumb kids anymore.”
“We’re dumb adults?” Kirkland wondered. “Or slightly smarter kids?”
“We’re… in love.”
“We are?” Kirkland asked, not so much in disbelief as with concern that it was okay or even appropriate to use the word. He wasn’t sure how this exchange was supposed to go. In all the lectures they’d received, neither Cass not Steven had covered this detail.
“We are,” Charlie said firmly, allowing no follow up questions.
“I can’t thank you enough for your hospitality,” Chase told Rachel as he moved his belongings into the Cory house the following morning.
“There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for one of my children,” Rachel enlightened the man pointedly, shaking the hand he’d offered while keeping the maximum distance possible. “I consider Lila one of my own children. I hope you realize that.”
“She’s told me wonderful things about you,” Chase continued to play the politician.
“It’s the less wonderful things you should be wary of,” Rachel advised, sweeping past her houseguest to greet her husband, newly arrived in the foyer to pick up Elizabeth and Cory from an overnight with their mother.
“What in Heaven’s name is he doing here?” Carl demanded, even breaking off the kiss his wife offered to gaze over her shoulder at the Mayor of Bay City following Lila up the back stairs and out of sight.
“Hiding out,” Rachel summarized. “Lila asked if they might both take advantage of our security system to keep the press at bay.”
“And you agreed?”
“Lila is in love with him.”
“I am in love with you, and yet I’ve been banished to a lonely pied-a-terre on the outskirts of town.”
“That’s a slightly different circumstance.”
“Yet equally as untenable to me. Truly, Rachel, this is growing absurd. How long are we to keep up this travesty in the hope that your grown children might cease threatening to hold their breaths until they turn blue? Not that the shade wouldn’t be preferable to the otherwise green hue they’ve been sporting ever since I entered your life.”
“Amanda came to see me yesterday,” Rachel said. “She and Kevin are adopting a little boy, and she asked me to be a character witness for her with the social workers. That’s a step in the right direction, don’t you think? Proof that she is starting to come around.”
“Your daughter is always fit to put on a happy face, as long as it might get her what she wants. It rarely lasts.”
“At least we’re talking again. I can’t very well convince them of anything if Jamie, Matt, and Amanda aren’t speaking to me.”
“How long is His Honor planning on squatting upon our property?” Carl couldn’t get the thought of Chase in their home out of his mind. And it certainly beat discussing Amanda and the rest of Rachel’s overgrown brats.
“I don’t know,” Rachel admitted. “It’s not as if this will be blowing over anytime soon. It’s a major story. And, even if it weren’t, Amanda is determined to make it one.”
“Amanda is behind their exposure?”
Rachel nodded. “And she found out from Grant, of all people.”
“Hm…” Carl mused. “There is a rather unholy alliance, if I do say so myself.”
“You’ve been suspicious of Chase and Lila from the start,” Rachel recalled.
“And the addition of Amanda and Grant to the puzzle hardly puts my mind at ease. Promise me something, my love. Promise that you will watch Mr. Hamilton very closely every moment that he is in our home. Something is terribly off, here. Something that, if we fail to be vigilant, might conclude very, very badly indeed.”
“Hey,” Steven startled in surprise to find GQ answering Jen’s door.
“What are you doing here?”
“Jen is my girlfriend.” GQ seemed to be having trouble understanding Steven’s question. “She’s sick. I’m taking care of her.”
“I thought you told me she doesn’t want you around. You or her dad. Something about Lassie and uh, mud?”
GQ shrugged. “Guess Jen changed her mind. Called me last night. I came over after her grandmother left. Jen’s sleeping now. Come on in.” He stepped aside. “Nice of you to check in on her.”
“Yeah, well,” Steven hedged. “I kind of feel responsible. Ever since the first night she got sick, you know…”
“Hell, you’re the hero of this story. If you hadn’t made her go see your dad, who knows what might have happened?”
“You’d have done the same thing.” Steven shrugged.
“Doubt it. I never would’ve been able to talk her into seeing a doctor. Guess we should start calling you The Jen Whisperer,” GQ laughed.
“I just wanted to make sure she was okay,” Steven grew more uncomfortable by the second.
“Alice said she got through the first chemotherapy session as well as could be expected. Though she did warn they get rougher incrementally. I guess we’ll all just have to dig in and tough it out.”
“Has Jen been… has she had any trouble with… remembering things? That you’ve noticed, I mean?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Chemo brain. Jen was scared the treatment would affect her – “
“Chemo brain is the least of her worries, man. Alice told me to look out for extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, bleeding, infection… So she forgets a fact or two, so what?”
“Well, Jen – she was really concerned about – “
“Look, I understand you think there’s nothing more important than IQ and being the smartest guy in every room, but, we’re talking literal life and death, here. You know, that stuff they don’t teach in Computer Science 101?”
“I’ve taken a few electives here and there,” Steven seethed.
“Yeah, you gotta admit though, sensitivity isn’t exactly your strong point – no offense.”
“No offense,” Steven repeated, voice hollow.
“It’s just that Jen’s got enough to worry about without you piling on about chemo brain and other nonsense. She needs to focus right now on pulling through this and staying healthy. Who cares if she’s not exactly as sharp as she was before, in the end? You’ve got to realize how unimportant that is compared to the big picture.”
Steven nodded, looking for all the world as if he concurred with GQ’s assessment of the situation. But, all he kept thinking was: Jen cares….
“Are you out of your mind?” Jeanne demanded, bursting into Dean’s apartment and, without so much as a hello, launching into, “What the hell possessed you drop your lawsuit against Donna?”
“You,” Dean said simply, having expected her to arrive ever since he saw that notice of his withdrawal had been made public – on Donna’s station’s website, naturally.
“Me?” Jeanne laughed. “I’m the one who first encouraged you to – “
“Donna knows about us,” Dean said.
“What?” She all but skid to a verbal stop.
“Donna knows about us. And she’s got pictures.”
Jeanne blinked, the words slowly sinking in, one at a time. “How…”
“When she found out I’d hired Frankie to spy on her for me, she hired someone else to spy on me, for her. That’s how it’s done in Bay City. I should have remembered.”
“So… Donna knows.”
“Yeah. And she threatened to tell everybody, unless I dropped the suit. So I dropped it.”
“She was going to tell Matt,” Jeanne said dully.
“Matt is a part of everybody.”
“If Matt finds out…”
“You could always tell him the same thing you tell me: How us being together doesn’t have anything to do with your marriage.”
“He wouldn’t understand,” Jeanne shook her head sadly.
“I can’t say I do, either,” Dean reminded.
She ignored his confusion, focusing instead on, “But, still, you dropped your lawsuit. For me.”
“Yes. That’s what I said earlier. I remember.”
“Why?” Jeanne wanted to know.
“Well, Donna did point out how it wouldn’t make me look particularly sympathetic, screwing my best friend’s wife behind his back.”
“But, that shouldn’t have affected your case. The judge is obliged to just look at the facts of what Donna did, your personal life doesn’t have anything to do with it.”
“Still, it wouldn’t help. And, besides, I’m not exactly drowning in friends, here. Why piss off Matt if I don’t have to?”
“Oh,” Jeanne said.
“Matt is who you want.” Dean couldn’t decide if he were making a statement or asking a question, and so settled for something in between.
“You dropped your lawsuit… so that I could hold on to Matt?” Jeanne cocked her head to one side, staring at Dean as if he were a previously undiscovered species. At least one she’d never met or even heard of before.
“In a nutshell? Yeah.”
“Well, it would bug Donna to no end. That’s usually a pretty good reason to do anything.”
“No,” Jeanne dismissed. “That’s not it.”
“Part of it,” Dean persevered.
“Not all of it.”
“I did it because I want you to be happy, okay? What, you need to see it in writing? Notarized? You say you’re happy with Matt. Why would I give Donna the pleasure of messing that up?”
“You did it for me,” Jeanne echoed the words like a foreigner learning a new language. She practically had an accent as she absorbed his meaning, syllable by syllable.
“Not sinking in, is it?”
“No,” she told him honestly.
“Sorry,” he shrugged. “’Cause that’s all I’ve got.”
“My getting to keep Matt was more important to you than your daughter’s future? More important than seeing Donna brought to justice?”
“The money would’ve been nice for Lori Ann to have down the line, yeah. But it’s not like she’s suffering. She’s got everything she needs. And Felicia, and Frankie and Cass, and Lorna, they make sure she has a ton of stuff she doesn’t need, on top of it. Funny part is, if Lori Ann was ever really desperate for more, Donna would be the first in line to give it to her. You know, to prove how good and generous she is? And, hell, there’s Carl, too. Lori Ann is going to be okay. She can survive without Donna’s money.”
Jeanne refused to let go. “This was going to be your chance to have Donna held accountable. Publicly.”
“It’s Bay City,” Dean reminded. “Nobody gets held accountable. Look at Grant… Carl. Look at what Marley got away with doing to Lorna. Hell, I love Cass, but he did, what? six months for murder? Less, maybe? What chance did I really have of seeing Donna get what was coming to her?”
“At least you had some chance. Now…”
“Donna will screw up again,” he predicted. “Sooner rather than later.”
“There is something else,” Jeanne began, thinking of the piece of information she’d been holding over Donna’s head for over a year, the one that forced Donna to stand back and let Jeanne marry Matt, unopposed. If only there was some way to expose that without…
Her train of thought was interrupted by the chirp of Jeanne’s phone. She went to silence it when Jeanne realized it was just another on-line news notification. Until she saw what precisely the notification was.
Shell-shocked, Jeanne clicked the link that was being recommended to her. And opened up a new browser window, displaying photographs of her and Dean for all to see.
“I’m worried about Cass,” Frankie confided to Felicia.
“Is there a problem with his medication?” Felicia’s mind went instantly to the most obvious, the most concrete.
“No. I mean, I don’t think so. I think it’s something a lot more basic. The way he reacted the other day to your excitement about an uncharted future… He told me later he finds the entire idea terrifying. I reminded him of the man he used to be, someone who loved to leap without looking or thinking about the consequences into the unknown, and Cass told me… Cass told me that was the man who killed Cecile and nearly destroyed his family. He doesn’t want to be that man anymore.”
“Well, honestly, can you blame him?” Felicia asked, reeling.
“But, don’t you see? He’s wrong! Cass thinks that by denying his old, fun self, he’s being more mature, more responsible, more likely to keep anything like that from ever happening again. But, he’s wrong. It was the sensible, dependable, family man Cass who killed Cecile. Because he was trying to protect me and our girls. I love him for it, I do. But, the Cass Winthrop I first fell head over heels for wasn’t sensible or dependable or mature. He was fun and adventurous and irreverent and alive.”
“That does ring a bell,” Felicia reminisced dryly.
“I will not have my husband bury himself in a premature grave because he’s afraid of making another, tragic mistake. That’s not a life for anyone, much less Cass.”
“It does have its appeal,” Felicia noted.
“For some people. Not for him. Not for you. And it’s a heck of an example to set for Charlie and Lori Ann. I don’t want my daughters to be afraid of life. I want them to embrace it, to squeeze every drop from it, to find their authentic voices and then to sing from the rooftops. Cass needs to be shown the error of his ways. He needs to believe that he can have fun again, enjoy himself and take chances without anything horrible happening.”
“It sounds like you have a plan.” Felicia leaned forward eagerly.
“I think that what Cass needs is to go on another big, grand, romantic, exciting adventure. You know, like in the good old days? With you and Wally…”
“Oh, is that all?” Felicia laughed. “And how do you propose to make one of those materialize out of thin air?”
“You’re the writer,” Frankie reminded. “I’m sure if we put our heads together, we could think of something to make the old Cass Winthrop come out of hiding…”
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|