“I don’t know,” Jamie told his son honestly. “I don’t know why Jake did what he did to Marley. And I don’t know how Vicky was able to forgive him, or why Marley thought she could still be in love with him after that. I wish I had an answer for you, but I don’t.”
“Why didn’t you ever tell me this before?” Kirkland went for the one question his father couldn’t claim ignorance of.
“Because,” Jamie said levelly. “You and Steven loved Jake. He was a great stepfather to you. He was there for Steven when I couldn’t be. Tainting his memory wouldn’t have done anybody any good.”
“I always knew you didn’t like him,” Kirkland confessed. “I couldn’t figure out why. I guessed it had to do with Mom.”
“Some of it did.”
“Mom thought Jake could have been Steven’s father, right? But, she went ahead and married you anyway.”
“It all worked out in the end,” was the only thing Jamie would say to that.
“I did some more research,” Kirkland said.
“Wonderful,” Jamie groaned.
“Jake tried to get you fired because of some doctor at the hospital that you – “
“Kelsey Harrison,” Jamie played it cool, unwilling to give the matter undue weight. “A cousin of yours, actually. You’ve never met; for obvious reasons. She was a medical resident, I was her supervisor. We had a brief romantic relationship – which was blatantly against hospital rules. I made the initial mistake in judgment. Jake just chose to publicize it. Let’s call that one a draw.”
“But, it was Marley,” Kirkland figured they couldn’t avoid it any longer. “That’s why you really hated Jake. Because he raped her. And you loved her.”
“Yes,” Jamie exhaled.
“Ever since Mom and Jake died, you’ve been so nice to Michele and Bridget.”
“Michele and Bridget have nothing to do with… with happened between Jake and Marley.”
“Yeah. I guess you’ve never been a sins of the father kind of guy,” Kirkland indicated himself ruefully.
“I appreciate you saying that, son.” Jamie went for a smile that Kirkland failed to return.
“I – You know that Charlie and I… we’ve been…”
“Yes. Thanks to Charlie’s testimony, the State of Illinois has it on the record.”
“Are you… okay? Is there something you want to talk to me about that?”
“I – At first, I wasn’t sure… I wasn’t sure if I wanted to. Remember?”
“Yes.” Once again, it took all of Jamie’s self-control to sound neutral on the subject. He remembered very well what happened when Kirkland had dared to turn Charlie down.
“But, then, I did. I mean, I really, really did. And now I do. Like, all the time.”
“That’s perfectly normal. Which I’m sure Steven told you.”
“But, what if it isn’t?” Kirkland spoke in a rush now, afraid of losing his nerve before he got the whole thing out. “What if it’s, like, too much, you know? What if I – what if I’m like… What if I can’t control myself one time, and what if I turn out like… like…”
“Like Jake,” Jamie said calmly. “And like me.”
“No, Dad. I mean, you explained what happened with you and – and Maggie’s mom. She drugged you and it wasn’t your fault and…”
“You are nothing like me, Kirkland. Or Jake.”
“I loved Jake,” Kirkland sniffed. “And I love you. I thought the two of you were the greatest guys in the world.”
“It must have hurt like hell to find out that we’re not.”
“Yeah. And it made me think, also. It made me think, if great guys like you two can…. Then anyone can…. What about me? What if I’m like that, too?”
Despite Rachel’s subtle hints, followed by flat-out directives, Donna refused to heed her mother-in-law’s warnings and vacate the premises. She insisted on staying planted where she was, in the BCU hospital emergency room waiting area, until they received further news of Matt.
It was Alice who finally came out to report that Matt was stable and had been moved into a private room. The worst was hopefully behind them, and he could have visitors now.
“Thank you,” Donna said, sweeping towards the door.
Alice turned to Rachel, uncertain how she was supposed to react.
Matt’s mother merely said, “I’ll let my son’s wife see him first. What Matthew and I have to discuss… it won’t be a brief conversation.”
Donna smiled sweetly. “How terribly gracious of you, Rachel.”
Her adversary remained grimly stone-faced in response.
Alice watched Donna go, observing, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware…”
“Neither was I. Until a few hours ago.”
“I’m afraid I don’t,” Rachel shook her head, making a conscious choice to focus on feeling grateful that it appeared Matt was going to be alright. She told Alice, “I guess I now owe you two of my sons’ lives. Thank you, Alice, for what you did for Matt.”
“It was my pleasure. You know how much he’s always meant to my entire family. You named him in our honor, after all. That makes him very special to us.”
“I was so scared,” Rachel admitted. “After everything that’s happened lately…”
“Yes,” Alice’s voice tightened just a little as she asked. “How is Elizabeth?”
The mention of her youngest daughter’s name flinched Rachel into remembering that she wasn’t just speaking to Jamie’s stepmother, but to Kevin’s grandmother, as well.
“Elizabeth… is… shaken up,” Rachel stammered, pushed and pulled from all sides by a tangle of conflicting emotions, wanting intuitively to defend her child at all costs, even as she couldn’t help wondering….
“You know, Rachel, we have some wonderful therapists at the hospital. It might do Elizabeth good to have a trained professional to talk to, work through her feelings…”
“By the time they got through with her, the helpless child wouldn’t know what was truth and what was a lie. And if she didn’t produce precisely what they were looking for, why, they’d simply twist the words she did utter,” Carl had said, predicting the BCPD’s actions when it came to pinning Elizabeth’s accusation about Kevin onto him.
“No, thank you,” Rachel snapped. “Elizabeth was crystal clear regarding what happened to her. And who was responsible.”
“She’s young,” Alice refused to be cowed. “Girls her age sometimes do and say things in the heat of anger or frustration or pique. They might want to recant later, but by then the situation has spiraled out of control, and they simply don’t know how. Or they’re afraid of letting down the people who’ve stood by them – “
“Your grandson attacked my child,” Rachel stressed. “No amount of gratitude on my part for your help with Matthew, will change that.”
“Kevin says he didn’t do it.”
“Of course, he does. What else would you expect him to say?”
“I believe him. So does Jen. So does Amanda.”
“Yes. My daughter made that quite clear when she burst into my home to threaten Carl and I.”
“I don’t want to argue with you, Rachel,” Alice said. “I just want you to understand one thing. As justifiably hard as you are fighting for Elizabeth, that’s how hard I intend to fight for Kevin. And I’m a great deal more formidable these days, than I used to be.”
“What are you doing here?” Zeno asked at the sight of Charlie’s car pulling up to the farm, and Charlie getting out – without either Lori Ann or Frankie.
“Looking for you,” she said, stepping gingerly over the mud as she tromped up the steps of the farmhouse.
“Jeez, you’re suspicious.”
“You never come up here alone, Charlie. You never talk to me unless you’re forced to. I’d say my suspicion is justified.”
“To hear Mom tell it, you guys are about to be repossessed at any minute.”
“Yeah, well, I know some tricks. As long as you keep moving money round, takes folks a while to realize it’s the same batch visiting every account.”
“Who taught you all this stuff?” she wondered. “How to run a farm and… whatever.”
“I watched my mom my whole life. Guess I picked up something here and there.”
“So why bother going to college, if you already know everything you need?”
“Didn’t say that,” he looked at her queerly, confused by the sudden interest. “Worst part of not knowing, is not knowing what you don’t know.”
“Besides, there’s more to college than just learning what you need to in order to work, get a job. Frankie’s right, my mom would’ve wanted me to go. Take philosophy, poetry, music, all those things she loved, but never got a chance to really study. She was always too busy working here, trying to keep us from going under.”
Charlie said, “It looks like there won’t be enough money for me to go to college next year.”
“Mom and Dad suggested maybe I want to do a couple of classes at BCU, not a full load. But, I figure, what’s the point? I didn’t want to go to college to learn things. I wanted to go to college to, you know, go to college. If I can’t do that, I might as well just skip GO, don’t collect $200 dollars, and get my life started already. Why wait? I mean, look at you. You’re doing perfectly fine.”
“I don’t think my version of fine is what Cass Winthrop had in mind for his little girl.”
“You mean, he wanted me to go to college, earn a degree, get a good job, make tons of money?”
“In a nutshell, yeah.”
“My dad went to law school. He was a big-shot attorney. And look at him now. What good did any of it do him?”
Zeno merely shook his head and smirked.
“What?” she demanded.
“You’ve got no idea what you’re talking about. You think if your dad hadn’t been a rich, hot-shot lawyer he’d have gotten a smack on the wrist and permission to walk out of jail – without even paying the $200 dollars – for murder? You know who thinks money doesn’t matter, Charlie? People who never had to work for their own.”
“But, that’s what I’m trying to do. Skip college, go straight to work. I thought you could help me convince my parents.”
“You know how to do anything?” Zeno queried.
“Lots of things.”
He had a point there. Not that Charlie was about to let him know it. “I can learn. You did. Maybe I can even work here. Kill two birds with one stone. Help you out and – “
“I’m not a fan of amateurs. And I’m really not a fan of dilettantes.”
“For a guy who didn’t go to college, you sure know a lot of big words.”
“Give it up, Charlie. Don’t be in such a hurry to strike out on your own. Your parents want to baby you a little while longer, let ‘em. You’ve got no idea how nice it is to be taken care of, until one day it isn’t there anymore.”
“Is that why you zeroed in on Allie? Looking to be taken care of, are you, Zeno?”
She’d meant it as a joke. Zeno most clearly hadn’t taken it as one.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
Charlie was instantly sorry she’d said anything at all. But, as usual, she wasn’t about to let Zeno see that he’d rattled her. “It means what I said. Allie is rich, you’re about to go under here… Bet you wouldn’t say “get lost” to a generous benefactor. Even if she was an amateur. Or a dilettante.”
“Shut up,” Zeno growled.
“I bet Allie could probably write one check, and solve all your problems.”
“Shut,” Zeno repeated even more pointedly. “Up.”
“Kept man. There’s another job description that doesn’t require a college degree.” Charlie was forced to shout the last of her observation as Zeno stomped off, slamming the farmhouse door behind him.
“Is Matt going to be okay, Grandma?” Steven, with Cory hovering nervously beside him, greeted Rachel as she came home, obviously wiped, both emotionally and physically.
She smiled weakly at them both, kissing first Steven, then Cory as she reported, “Fine. Matt is going to be just fine.”
“That’s good,” Cory said.
“Yes, wonderful news. We were very fortunate.” Rachel smiled at Steven. “Good to see you, darling. It’s been such a long time. What brings you by?”
Her grandson and her son exchanged looks. Steven said, “Cor wanted me to take a look at his computer, check some stuff out.”
“Everything alright?” Rachel asked distantly, really just going through the motions at this point.
Another nervous look between Steven and Kirkland, this time a little too fraught for even Rachel to miss.
“What’s going on, boys?” she wanted to know.
“I – uhm,” Steven began.
But, Cory, finally embracing that this was his doing and he was the one who ought to take responsibility for the reveal – and the consequences – stepped up to say, “After Steven finished fixing my computer, I wanted to make sure that the network still worked. So I had him check Elizabeth’s.”
“And?” The word all but stuck in Rachel’s throat.
“And…” Cory reached for his laptop, opening it and turning the screen towards Rachel. “This is – this is what came up. It’s everything Elizabeth searched over the past few weeks. That she then erased and tried to delete completely.”
Rachel skimmed the headers, feeling faint the lower her eyes went down the page, until she had to slump in a chair, Cory’s machine still in her lap, her hands shaking as she frantically tapped button after button, reading only a few words before going to the next one and the next one and the next…
“All these articles…” Rachel said.
“Testimony from rape victims,” Cory confirmed.
“The police crises counselor said Elizabeth’s descriptions were so accurate….”
Steven shifted awkwardly from foot to foot, hands in his pocket, trying to look anywhere but in his agonized grandmother’s face.
“She said girls rarely make up details so accurate…”
“I’m sorry, Grandma,” Steven blurted, a part of him wishing he’d never gotten involved, even as he felt equally guilty about how thrilled he was for Kevin. And how badly Steven wanted to be the one to deliver the news to Jen. But, unfortunately, there was still one more thing he needed to do. In the great scheme of things it wasn’t nearly as devastating, but it was disconcerting, nonetheless. “I know this probably isn’t the time, but…”
While Cory looked on, confused, Rachel raised her head wearily, bracing herself for another blow. “What is it, Steven?”
“I – while I was… working… on your computer system, I noticed that your server had been hacked before, pretty recently, too. Whoever did it, they saw… everything.”
“You know where he is,” was the major piece of information Jen drew from Jamie and Kevin explaining to both Jen and GQ that her best chance for recovery lay with a bone-marrow transplant from a blood relative, presumably her biological father.
“Yes,” Kevin confessed uncomfortably.
“Why didn’t you ever tell me?”
“Because. You wanted nothing to do with him. I wanted nothing to do with him. All I cared about was keeping you as far away from him as possible. Tracking his movements made that easier.”
“So he’s out of jail?”
Kevin nodded. “About ten years now.”
“Wow. That’s a personal best. What’s he doing?”
“Supposedly living the straight and narrow.”
“Why supposedly?” GQ interrupted.
“Horace Johnson isn’t exactly the straight and narrow type. His recidivism rate is… high. And his crimes only tend to escalate. He started with drug dealing, moved into robbery, then assault and battery.”
“Man can change. You said he’s been clean for ten years.”
“I said he hasn’t been caught in ten years,” Kevin corrected.
Sensing that the discussion was getting needlessly – and rather disturbingly – off-track, Jamie attempted to redirect. “In any case, that’s good news. If your father is a genetic match for your transplant, him no longer using drugs is a plus.”
“So, what are we supposed to do?” Jen looked from Jamie to Kevin. “Just go knock on the guy’s door and ask if we can harvest some bone marrow?”
“Actually, that’s exactly what I was intending to do,” Kevin said. “Unfortunately, I’m unable to leave the state at the moment…”
“Oh,” Jen remembered. “No change then? Mike hasn’t – “
“Forget about that,” GQ and Kevin said in near-unison, exchanging quick glances of surprise at suddenly finding themselves on the same side.
“I’ll call him instead,” Kevin said. “The only problem is…”
“What?” Jamie asked.
“I’m worried that hearing from me might make him rabbit.”
“You think he’d do that? We’re talking about his own daughter.”
“Jenny has never really been Horace’s priority.”
“Kind of tough, when you stripped him of his parental rights,” GQ noted.
“The man was in prison,” Kevin recalled.
“Which, last time I checked, wasn’t a legal basis for getting your kid taken away.”
“I asked him to do it, GQ,” Jen reminded.
“You were seven years old. You didn’t know any better. Your new daddy, here, should have. Hell, weren’t you arguing a couple of years ago that Grant being declared legally dead wasn’t a good enough reason to terminate his relationship with Kirkland?””
Again, Jamie felt like it was up to him to keep the conversation focused on the true issue at hand. “We could have the hospital contact Mr. Johnson directly, if you think that’s the better approach. I’ll do it myself, explain the situation, explain what’s required.”
“And really give him time to think of reasons not to do it?” Kevin shook his head. “No. I should be the one. Catch him by surprise, not give him an opportunity to back out. And I should do it in person. Jamie, you said a cheek swab would be enough to test if he’s a potential donor?”
“A blood sample would be better, but we should be able to make it work.”
“Give me the kit. I’ll see it gets done.”
“You can’t leave the state,” GQ prompted.
“I’m not under house arrest, I don’t have any court appearances scheduled. I could get in and out in twenty-four hours, nobody would have to know.”
“You’ll end up in jail, Daddy!”
“I don’t care.”
“And what if Mr. Johnson refuses?” GQ felt compelled to ask.
“I’ll make sure he doesn’t. I’ll get a court order if I have to, make him donate.”
“For Pete’s sake, you really believe the law is your personal club to batter other people with, don’t you?”
“We’re talking about my daughter’s life. I’ll use every weapon at my disposal. If I have to harvest the bone marrow myself with a chain-saw, I’ll do it.”
“Typical,” GQ snorted. “First you drag the guy into court to deprive him of his rights, then you illegally keep him under surveillance for over a decade, and now you think he was put on Earth as your own personal organ donor, without considering the possibility that he might have any say in the matter.”
“Whose side are you on exactly, GQ?”
“I’m on Jen’s side. But, that doesn’t mean I’m willing to turn a blind eye. By your logic, you’d be perfectly justified accosting any stranger on the street and ripping out his bone-marrow with the same chain saw you’ve designated for Jen’s dad, as long as it was done in the name of saving her life. So explain to me, please, how, exactly that makes you morally superior to anyone, including Jen’s father?”
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|