“Thank you so much for bringing them,” Marley smiled at Sarah over Bridget and Michele’s heads, hugging her nieces, telling them, “I’ve missed you guys so much!”
“Which one of us gets Kirkland’s room?” Michele demanded. “I call dibs!”
“No fair!” Bridget pouted. “You said we’d let Aunt Marley decide.”
“No one is taking Kirkland’s room,” Marley corrected. “It’s Kirkland’s.” She tried to flash Grant a reassuring smile. “Anytime he wants it.”
Grant smiled back weakly in return, forcing himself to look at Marley, at Michele, at Bridget, anywhere but…
Sarah said, “Don’t worry, Midget. You won’t believe how fast you’ll get used to living here instead of at your Grandmother’s. In the end, I bet you’ll love your new rooms so much, you won’t even remember why you used to think the old place was a big deal. Right, Grant?”
“What?” he startled.
“I was just telling the girls it’s okay to miss old, comfortable things. But that, sometimes, you can love something new even better. Your old place may have been fine, once upon a time. But, the new one fits your life now. And that’s more important.”
Marley told Bridget and Michele, “I didn’t have a lot of time to fix up your rooms. I thought it would be more fun to do it together, anyway. Come on, let me show you.” She took each girl by the hand, leading them upstairs. And leaving Grant alone.
She smiled. “Midget are so excited to be back with Marley.”
“So is she,” Grant said. “With them.”
“They belong together. That’s obvious to anybody.”
“Sarah…” he sighed. In no mood to keep playing games now that Marley and the twins were gone. “Please… Don’t. I – I’m too damn old for this, okay?”
“You didn’t feel old when you were with me.”
“No,” Grant practically choked on his bitter laughter. “With you, I felt ancient.”
“Not all the time,” she reminded.
Grant thought of the afternoon following Kirkland’s surgery, and had to admit that Sarah was right. But, he’d be damned if he’d ever let her know that.
Instead, Grant asked, “So now that Michele and Bridget are living here, I assume you’ll be moving out of Donna’s?”
“I suspect she’s tossing my stuff on the lawn as we speak.”
“Heading back to the dorms?” Grant asked, making it clear he was merely making polite conversation. “That should be nice. I’m sure you’ve missed being with people your own age.”
“Not particularly. I am so over all-night keg parties and random hook-ups, I can’t tell you. And I am definitely done with roommates. I’ve rented an apartment of my own, a few blocks away from campus. It’s very private. I’ll write down the address for you. You know, in case you ever need anything.”
“For the girls,” Grant clarified. “In case Marley and I ever need anything. For the girls.”
Sarah merely smiled.
Matt slamming the door woke Jeanne up from the chair she’d fallen asleep in, waiting all night for him to come home.
She jumped, eyes instantly open, blinking in painful surprise at the out of the blue rising sun, swallowing hard, bracing herself, ready for anything.
Matt hung up his coat, then plopped down on the bed, shoulders sagging, head down. His breath sounded raspy, as if he’d been running.
“Are you… are you okay?” Jeanne broached, genuinely concerned.
He only grunted in return.
“I tried calling your office.”
“You along with every gossip rag in the county.”
“It – This – It wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“I kind of figured that.”
“Please don’t be mad at Dean. He tried to – “
“What?” Matt’s head jerked up. “He tried to what? Not jump my wife? Did he try hard? As hard as he tried not to move in on Jenna?”
“Dean didn’t move in on anybody.”
“I’m sorry. What?”
“I love you, Matt. I have no interest in Dean.”
His mouth opened and closed several times before Matt managed to choke out, “Are you serious? Are you seriously trying to deny what I and the majority of the state of Illinois saw with our own eyes?”
“You saw pictures of me having sex with Dean. So what?”
“So…” Matt’s voice trailed off.
“So, I had sex with Dean. So what?” Jeanne reiterated. “You weren’t having sex with me. And I didn’t let that stop me from wanting to make our marriage work.”
“Same way I shouldn’t let you having sex with Dean stop me from making our marriage work?” Matt clarified, incredulous.
“Yes. Exactly. What’s sex, anyway? Sex is nothing. I mean, you had sex with me for months, and you didn’t give a damn about me, right?”
“You had sex with me while you were still in love with Donna. So why can’t I have sex with Dean while I’m in love with you?”
Unable to offer Jeanne an answer – though Matt felt certain there was one; he just seemed to be having a bit of trouble summoning up the appropriate words – he, instead, ducked the entire subject by asking, “Does Dean know you feel this way?”
“Of course, he does. You know I don’t lie.”
“And he’s okay with it?”
“Yes. He knows I love you.”
“Why would you two….”
“He’s good at it,” Jeanne said simply.
“Dean is very good at having sex.”
Matt stared at his wife, dumbfounded, once again at a loss for words. And, at this point, thoughts. His mind had gone completely blank.
“Anyway,” Jeanne said. “Dean thought he and Donna had a deal. She promised him she wouldn’t publish those pictures if he dropped the suit against her. Dean did, but – “
“Wait a minute.” Matt felt as if he were coming back to life. Courtesy of an electrical shock straight to the heart. “What does Donna have to do with any of this?”
“Jamie! What a lovely surprise!” Rachel rose to greet him, hugging her son tightly.
“It’s good to see you, Mom.” He kissed her on the cheek. “Have you heard from Matt?”
“No. Have you?”
“Lorna’s been in touch with him. PR stuff.”
“How is he?”
“Snarky and brusk, according to Lorna.”
“With Matt, that’s always a good sign. It’s when he gets quiet and withdrawn that it becomes time to worry.” Rachel led Jamie into the library, telling him, “It upsets me to find out just how badly I misjudged Jeanne. I really thought she loved him.”
“I suppose there’s still a possibility that things aren’t what they seem.”
Rachel raised an eyebrow.
“A small possibility,” Jamie doubled-down. “The good news is, Lorna managed to get the pictures removed off the web.”
“I saw that. I didn’t realize it was Lorna’s doing. Impressive.”
“My wife is a very impressive woman.”
Rachel briefly caressed her son’s face with her fingers. “You have no idea how delighted it makes me, seeing you so happy after all this time.”
Jamie reached up to take his mother’s hand, lowering it to Rachel’s side and squeezing it gently. “And you have no idea how much it kills me to see you unhappy.”
“I do. I know it. Just like I know there has got to be a way we can resolve the stand-off with Carl so that all of us – “
He cut her off. “This isn’t about Carl.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Mom. Do you remember the morning of Lorna’s and my wedding? When BCZ ran a copy of her document charging Matt with sexual harassment?”
“Of course, I remember.”
“Well, neither Lorna, nor Matt nor I had any idea how they got their hands on it. As far as any of us knew, it was locked up in a drawer in Lorna’s office. She never intended to use it. Certainly not by that point, anyway. Yesterday, when Lorna was haggling with BCZ over the Jeanne and Dean pictures, she convinced them to forward her info on how they’d acquired the sexual harassment document, too. It – Mom – Elizabeth was the one who sent it to them.”
Rachel took an involuntary step back. “Elizabeth?”
“Lorna says – “
“Lorna,” Rachel attempted to dismiss with the wave of a hand. “Lorna has had it in for Elizabeth ever since last 4th of July. She’d be happy to leap to any ridiculous conclusion, as long as it made your sister look bad.”
“Lorna saw the original e-mail. She’s pretty sure it’s accurate.”
“Anyone can fake an e-mail.”
“Not really anyone,” was all Jamie felt moved to say. “And, if you want, we could have Steven take a look and authenticate."
“Why would Elizabeth…”
“Last 4th of July,” Jamie turned the facts back on Rachel. “Lorna embarrassed her – “
“She had no right to do that. I told her as much.”
“And you made Elizabeth apologize.”
“They were both in the wrong.”
“Elizabeth had a very good reason to want to humiliate Lorna and me. It being our wedding day just added icing to the cake. You can handle this as you see fit, Mom. I have no intention of interfering. She’s not my daughter.” The Thank God was implied. “I just thought you’d want to know.”
“You remember Amanda,” Kevin prompted Ike as they visited the boy, miraculously up and about after open-heart surgery, at his group home.
“Amanda Panda,” Ike giggled.
“Yes,” Kevin agreed with a grin at his wife. Who did her best to smile back. “We both wanted to come check on you, find out how you were feeling.”
“Wanna to see my scar?” Ike started to pull up his shirt. “It was so yucky before. You missed it.”
“That’s okay,” Kevin reassured, primarily for Amanda’s sake.
“You’re pretty,” Ike told Amanda.
“Uh, thank you.” She wasn’t sure how to react to that.
“I have a new truck.” Ike didn’t appear offended. “I’ll show you.” He turned around, ready to dash off.
“Hold on a second, pal,” Kevin grabbed Ike around the middle, holding him back. “Wait up. Amanda and I want to talk to you about something important.”
“No,” Amanda interrupted, resting a hand on Kevin’s arm. “It’s okay. It can wait. Let him show us what he wants to show us.”
“I’ll be right back,” Ike promised, speeding off.
Kevin looked at Amanda in surprise. “I wanted to tell him – “
“Not yet,” she urged. Then, in response to Kevin’s confused frustration, clarified, “We don’t know for sure yet that the adoption will go through. We haven’t even had our home study or the interviews. You told me yourself how these things can get derailed over a missed comma or an uncrossed T. Let’s wait until we’re sure, then tell Ike. No sense getting his hopes up or disappointing him.”
Kevin chewed on her words. “I guess you’re right. It’s just,” he sighed, sheepish, “I’m so excited about this.”
“I know.” Amanda kissed him briefly, just before Ike barreled on top of them. “I know.”
“Are you alright?” Chase asked Lila when, following a rather uncomfortable dinner in the formal dining room, with Cory making small talk, Elizabeth glowering, Jasmine doing her best to be polite, and Rachel seemingly watching his every move, Chase and Lila found themselves back in her room. The room Chase would presumably be sharing.
“I’m worried about Jasmine,” Lila admitted. “I talked to her, tried to explain about you. But, I can’t stop her from reading the papers or the Internet. And even if I somehow could, the other boys and girls at her school…”
“Would you like me to see what I can do?”
“No. No, with Jasmine, it’s best to let her be, allow her to stew on things for a bit, then wait for her to come tell you she’s ready to discuss things further. It doesn’t do any good to rush her, she moves at her own pace.”
“She seems to be a lovely young lady, Lila. Smart, well-mannered, sweet, loyal. Just like her mother.”
“Maybe not the well-mannered part,” Lila dismissed.
“Is Matt still mad at you about your continuing to let Jasmine live under Carl’s roof?”
“Matt’s got his own problems these days, I gather.”
“Oh, yes, I heard about that.”
“Poor Jasmine. And she was just getting to like Jeanne, too. Honestly, I don’t know which fire to put out first with her. Poor baby.”
“Makes me glad Milagros is too young to read. Or understand what’s being said about me.”
“You miss her,” Lila took his hand sympathetically.
“I miss them both,” Chase confessed.
“I’ve been so busy complaining about all the sacrifices you’ve asked me to make, I forgot you’ve given up a lot, too.”
“My choice,” Chase reminded. “You’re just in this for the ride.”
“Is getting Carl really worth all… this?”
“Yes.” Chase didn’t hesitate for a moment. “Keep in mind, Lila, I’ve seen the man’s entire rap-sheet over the past fifty years. And those are just the crimes we know about. When I start thinking about everything he must have gotten away with, all the people who still have an axe to grind with him. Kirkland and Spencer Harrison were just the warm up act. This will all get much, much worse, unless we stop him, once and for all.”
Lila peered up at Chase, blown away, as always, by his devotion to what he was doing, by his conviction, by his passion. He had a way of speaking that made every word out of his mouth seem like immutable truth, and a way of looking at the person he was speaking to that pulled her in completely, magnetically, recklessly.
Lila kept looking at him. She rose up on the tips of her toes, and she leaned in. And she kissed him. Unsure of precisely why, knowing only that she couldn’t seem to help herself.
He kissed her back. There was no denying that. His lips catching hers, his arms slipping around her back, his body pressing against hers, Chase most definitely kissed Lila back.
“I hear you finally did it,” Zeno told Charlie after stopping by the Winthrop house looking for Frankie, but only finding her older daughter.
“What?” Charlie all but jumped in the air, stunned.
“Told the truth.” He gave her a strange look. “About what happened with you and Kirkland.”
“Oh.” Charlie’s heartbeat returned to normal. “That.”
“Yeah. That. What did you think I was talking about?”
“That,” Charlie insisted faintly.
“Good for you.” Zeno seemed genuinely pleased to hear it. “And was I right? Did it fix things?”
“No.” Something about the smug look on his face – or, at least, the smug look she imagined he was suppressing in an attempt to come off as even more superior – made Charlie want to smack it off.
Zeno shrugged, turning back towards the door, prepared to leave, but stopping at the last minute. “You okay?” he asked Charlie.
“Fine. Great. Happy as a pig in… well, I guess you’d know best what pigs are happy in.”
“The saying goes: clover. Though I’m not sure how seriously you can take it. There’s another expression: Sweating like a pig. And pigs don’t have sweat glands.”
“Jeez, would you stop acting like you know everything, already? I am so sick of people who act like they know everything, especially when they totally don’t.”
“We still talking about pigs?” Zeno double-checked, amused.
An aspect that was completely lost on Charlie as she raged, “Like my dad. He spends the bulk of his life nailing anything that moves just because he can, but, when it comes to me, suddenly sex is this big deal that’s so awesome and monumental and great and wonderful and awe-inspiring it’s supposed to change your life.”
“And it wasn’t?” Zeno guessed in a tone so non-judgmental, Charlie was stunned to find herself feeling not nearly as mortified as she’d have expected.
“It was… okay,” she shrugged, wondering why the hell she was telling him this, even as she realized she’d been dying to tell someone for days now. “But, you know, after the build-up everybody gives it…”
“Just okay isn’t what you were looking for.”
“It was… fine,” Charlie felt herself growing defensive. “I was glad to get the first time over with, anyway. And we were careful. And Kirk… he was really sweet and he kept asking me if I was alright, and he seemed so happy we were finally getting down to… It’s just, you know, you hear about people risking their lives and giving up thrones and going crazy just to… I mean, for what?”
“Love?” Zeno guessed.
“That’s all just chemical, you know. They told us in school. When you have sex, there’s this hormone that makes you fall in love. Or it makes you think you’re in love. You’re basically just getting high, like an addict, or something.”
“What’s the difference between thinking you’re in love, and actually being in love?” Again, Zeno’s tone proved so inoffensive, Charlie had nothing to feel embarrassed about.
“I don’t know. But, to hear my mom and dad talk, it’s this perfect alignment of the stars, cosmic convergence, yin and yang, souls reconnecting through eternity – “
“That one,” Zeno reminded. “I’m very familiar with.”
“They’re both so full of it,” Charlie shook her head.
“I wouldn’t say that. Frankie loved my mom. And my mom loved her. That was real. I was there, I saw it happen. Even if it didn’t last, it was real. Same with Frankie and Cass. All that stuff about reincarnation and souls traveling in packs is pretty out there. But, the rest of it, I think your mom is telling the truth about what love is like for her.”
“Fine,” Charlie snapped. “Then I’m the messed up one, okay? There. Are you happy? The whole sex and love and soul-mates forever through time thing works for everybody but me. I’m a freak who can’t even get right the one thing that comes easy for everyone else. I’m the one who screwed up. Again. What else is new?”
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|