Looking proud enough to burst, Donna told Matt, “I am signing over all of my assets, absolutely every penny I can presently lay claim to, to Lori Ann – with Dean as trustee.”
Matt blinked. It wasn’t so much due to the weakness of his post-heart-attack state, as to the fact that he honestly couldn’t conceive of a single word to utter in reply.
“What do you think of that?” Donna demanded, when the accolades didn’t immediately commence raining down like she believed fit.
“Why – why would you do something like that?” Matt snuck a peek at his monitor, surprised to see its beeping steadily unperturbed. Obviously, he’d developed a tolerance for Donna’s… shenanigans.
“For Lori Ann and Dean, of course! If money is what Dean needs to get over Jenna’s death…”
“I don’t think that’s exactly how he was looking at things…”
“Then money he shall have! All of it! Enough to last him and Lori Ann several lifetimes!”
“What about you?” Matt wondered.
“What about me, darling?”
“You’ve grown pretty comfortable with your lifestyle. In fact, you’re not exactly familiar with any other kind.”
“Times are difficult, Matthew. Families are tightening their belts everywhere. We all need to make sacrifices.”
“What do you intend to live on?” Matt cut to the chase, since his subtle approach clearly wasn’t getting the job done.
Donna shrugged. “I work.”
“You work at the station. Isn’t that one of the things you’re giving up?”
“Well… yes.” A wave of the hand indicated Donna hadn’t perhaps thought the endeavor through as thoroughly as she’d suggested. Which wouldn’t have been hard, considering her decision was made and executed on a whim.
“And where are you going to live? Are you giving up the mansion, too?”
“Why, with you, darling! Where else would I live but alongside my husband?”
“I don’t have a home right now,” he felt obliged to point out. “There’s Jeanne’s place…”
“Don’t even say the word, please,” Donna pressed her fingers to her temple, indicating an imminent migraine.
“The other option is my mother’s…”
“We’ll think of something,” Donna dismissed, convinced that the migraine she’d mimed would indeed make its presence felt if Donna were forced to ponder a future of cohabitation with Rachel… and Carl. “The important thing is that you’re proud of me. Are you proud of me, Matthew? I wracked my brain trying to think of how I could make this situation better, so that you might leave the hospital without needing to re-shoulder the strain that drove you here in the first place.”
“You did this for me?” He couldn’t help double-checking. “I thought you did it for Lori Ann and Dean?”
“I did it to demonstrate how I’ve changed.”
“Since, what, a couple of days ago?”
“Don’t make fun, Matthew. Don’t you realize that I want to be the kind of woman you’d be proud to call your wife? I want you to be able to walk out of this hospital with your head held high. Our marriage shouldn’t commence beneath a dark cloud.”
“Right. What’s a little bigamy and blackmail between friends?”
“I did it all for you, Matthew. Everything. I just wanted to be with you forever. I didn’t want anything or anyone to stand in our way ever again.”
Matt sighed. He looked at his wife. And he sighed again. He said, “I love you, Donna.”
She grabbed his hand and kissed the back of Matt’s palm, pressing it to her cheek, swearing, “Then that makes absolutely everything worthwhile.”
“Sarah,” Marley opened the door to the twins’ former babysitter.
“Hi, Marley.” The younger woman smiled cautiously, projecting a bravado that she told herself she felt, and suppressing a panic she absolutely swore she didn’t.
“Thank you for coming.”
“You’re welcome. I – What did you want to talk to me about?”
“I’m sorry for being so cryptic. It wasn’t exactly a subject for the phone. Come in,” she beckoned, closing the door behind Sarah and waving her towards the living room.
“What’s going on?” Sarah sat down gingerly, ready to bolt at any minute, depending on how the conversation went.
“I wanted to talk to you about Bridget and Michele.”
“Midget?” A part of Sarah exhaled in relief while another remained ever vigilant.
“Yes. I – The girls learned something very unpleasant about their father recently. Well, and their mother too, as a result.” Marley quickly filled Sarah in on the consequences of Michele and Bridget’s Google spelunking, and all the subsequent questions raised.
“Wow,” Sarah said. “That’s rough.” As if hearing about it for the first time.
“I don’t know what to do, honestly. Grant has been wonderful.”
“I’m sure he has,” Sarah said. “He cares about the girls a lot.”
“And Lila. I gather Lila got hit with some questions, too. Michele went to Kirkland. I even asked Jamie for help. But, in the end, I think I realized that there’s nothing anyone can really say to fix this. Michele and Bridget have to process, each in her own way, for as long as it takes.”
“You’re probably right.” Sarah was happy to agree to pretty much anything Marley said, as long as the conversation stuck to this topic, and this topic only.
“But, in the meantime, I don’t want them dwelling on it. I’m afraid, with summer coming up, they’ll be left with too much time on their hands to sit around and brood. Or, worse, continue their Internet exploration. I’ve signed them up for camp. Day camp. I don’t want them leaving town right now. I need them where I can keep an eye on them. But, camp can’t take up every moment. Which is why I wondered if you might not be willing to fill in for me again, Sarah?”
“With Bridget and Michele?” she repeated slowly, making sure they were still on the same page.
“Yes. I don’t know what your summer plans were….”
“Nothing in particular, so far.”
“Would you consider taking a part-time job with me then, spending time with my girls in the afternoon? Talking to them, listening to them, guiding them a little. They love you so much.”
“I love them, too,” Sarah said.
“And I know you were a huge help while I was gone.”
“I was happy to do it.”
“So can I count on you? For the summer?”
“Sure.” Sarah didn’t have to think about it too hard.
“Wonderful!” Marley leaned over to spontaneously hug her. Pulling back, she observed, “You know, I had a feeling you were something special, even before you were born.”
“I doubt it,” Sarah laughed, embarrassed. “I’m pretty sure I was the same blob of cells as more or less any fetus.”
“I loved those blob of cells,” Marley admitted. “From the moment Olivia said I could have you, I fell in love.”
Well, that made the embarrassment about a thousand times worse. “I’m sorry my mother screwed you over like that.”
“I’m sorry, too. Not for you. I’m sure it was best for you to grow up with both your natural parents.”
Sarah shrugged, noncommittal.
“But, for me. I would have loved having you for my daughter.”
“Instead you got two daughters!” Sarah insisted on pointing out how much better of a deal Marley received in the end. “Double jackpot!”
“Yes. Lucky me. Unfortunately, the price I paid…”
“Oh, hell, Marley, I’m sorry. That was really insensitive of me.”
“It never feels comfortable to have your own happiness come at someone else’s expense, does it?” Marley asked.
“No,” Sarah admitted, once again feeling as nervous as when she first came in.
“Is it safe to approach,” Felicia wondered, having arrived at the playground with Lori Ann to discover that the only free swing available happened to be next to Devon… and Lorna. “Or are you going to accuse me of planning something nefarious?”
Lorna turned her head slowly, as if she’d managed to drift a million miles away while rhythmically pushing her daughter back and forth, taking a moment to register who was speaking to her and what Felicia had said.
Lorna shrugged and took a step to the side, making it easier for Felicia to plop Lori Ann in the swing beside Devon. Lorna smiled at Lori Ann, and told her own baby, “Look who’s here, Devon. It’s your cousin.”
“And your grandmother,” Felicia reminded archly. She stretched a perfectly manicured hand forward and grasped Devon’s chubby palm. “How do you do, Miss Frame? I’m Felicia Gallant. Don’t worry if you don’t remember me. It’s been far too long.”
Lorna rolled her eyes. “You’ve made your point.”
“She speaks!” Felicia observed dramatically. “To what do I owe the honor?”
For a moment, Lorna looked as if she actually might answer, but then she merely shook her head and turned away, mumbling, “Forget about it.”
Which was when Felicia realized something was really wrong. The minute Lorna declined to fight back. Or even so much as ceremoniously snark.
“What is it?” Felicia grabbed her daughter by the elbow, forcing Lorna to turn back and face her. “Is it Jamie? Devon? The baby?”
“Jamie is fine. He’s been busy at the hospital with Matt.”
Felicia gasped. “Has Matt – “
“Matt’s fine. Devon is fine. The baby is fine.”
“Well, that leaves just you then. And you, my darling, are definitely not fine.”
Another shrug. “So what?”
“So what?” Felicia thundered. “So what is I deserve to know who is currently making your life miserable! If only so I might tell them that happens to be my job.”
The hint of a smile tugged the corners of Lorna’s lips. “Very funny.”
But, it was enough to encourage Felicia into pressing, “What’s wrong, Lorna? As long as it isn’t me, maybe I can actually help.”
“There’s always the die trying option. Two birds, one stone. A win-win for you!”
“Don’t say that,” Lorna’s head snapped up. “Don’t even joke about that.”
“What has got you so spooked?” Felicia demanded, even going so far as to suppress her instinctive glee at the realization that Lorna had inadvertently suggested she didn’t exactly wish her mother dead. At the moment. Which was certainly a step up over the past few months.
“Carl,” Lorna said in a voice that managed to sound simultaneously defiant and lost.
“What about Carl?” Felicia’s eyes narrowed.
“He threatened me.” It felt so good to finally get the words out, Lorna couldn’t even regret what she was saying, much less that she was saying it to Felicia. “He threatened me, and he threatened Devon, and the baby.”
“Why would Carl – “
“He’s gotten it into his head that Jamie, Amanda and Matt forcing Rachel to choose between them and him is all my doing, part of some long-con plan to destroy his life.”
“Is it?” Felicia wondered, intrigued.
“I wish,” Lorna mumbled. “If it was part of a plan, I’d know what to do next.”
“What do you want to do next?”
“I don’t know,” Lorna confessed. “I don’t want to lie to Jamie. We promised each other no secrets, you know, after… But I don’t want to make the situation with him and Rachel any worse. It’s bad enough we stuck our noses in over Elizabeth – that was a mistake. If I tell Jamie about Carl, it’s going to blow everything up a million times over.”
Felicia hesitated, thought for a moment, and then she assured Lorna, “Leave it to me.”
Frankie and Cass sat at the kitchen table, pouring over the documents Dean had given them before he left, and coming to the same conclusion regardless of which way they looked at it: Donna had gifted Lori Ann with an almost unfathomable amount of money.
“The house, too?” Frankie double-checked.
“The house, too.”
“And the jet?”
“And the jet.”
“The Harbor Club?”
“Everything means everything, Mary Frances.”
“I’m sorry,” she demurred. “I’m just trying to wrap my brain around – “
“Don’t try. You can’t. No one can. No one normal, anyway.”
“Dean wants us to manage all this for Lori Ann…”
“We can’t,” Frankie said.
“Why not?” Cass challenged.
“Because… It’s… We… this isn’t us, Cass.”
“It’s me,” he begged to differ. “At least, it used to be. I used to handle these kinds of deals as a matter of course. At Cory. And when I started my own publishing house.”
“It’ll change everything,” Frankie insisted. “Money always does.”
“But, what’s to say it can’t change things for the better?”
“With just the salaries we’d draw as Lori Ann’s trustees, we could send Charlie to college, no sweat.”
“We’ll figure out a way to do that anyway, eventually.”
“We can write a check now to cover all the physical therapy Lori Ann will ever need, and anything else that might come up down the line.”
“That was always going to be covered somehow. If not by us, there’s Felicia, Carl…”
“You could save Zeno’s farm.” Frankie hesitated, and Cass went in for the kill. “Orly’s farm…” When even that didn’t seem to be enough, Cass brought out the big guns. “You could save me, Frankie.”
“What?” She looked up, confused. “What are you talking about?”
“I need this. I need to feel useful again. If I can’t practice law, I need to do something to provide for my family.”
“You’re doing it! You’re working with Felicia!”
“It’s not enough and you know it. Maybe it will be someday, but that day isn’t today. I can do good here, Frankie. I can see that all of us are taken care of – and that includes Zeno, too. And I can see that Donna’s fortune – Reginald’s cursed fortune – is finally used towards something positive, instead of the usual destructive. You tell me, what would be a better tribute to Jenna than that?”
“Am I interrupting?” Lucas wondered after knocking on the door and poking his head into Alice’s office.
She looked up from her desk, smiling. “Not at all. Come in. Please.”
“Matt?” Lucas wondered.
“Stable and very likely on his way to recovery.”
“Good. Good.” That seemed to be all Lucas wished to say about that.
“Yes,” Alice agreed. And waited expectantly for him to continue.
Lucas took a seat. Then shifted uncomfortably within it. Finally, he asked, “Should I be apologizing?”
“Not to me,” she reassured.
“The other night…”
“Not to me.”
“I wasn’t certain.”
“That’s why I repeated myself,” she smiled.
“Would you… Maybe… Would you like to have dinner with me… Sometimes?”
Alice cocked her head to one side. “Are you asking me out on a date?”
“Yes,” Lucas said. He thought about it for a moment, then added, “Yes.”
“I wasn’t certain,” Alice clarified.
“That’s why I repeated myself.”
“There’s nothing you can say,” Rachel warned her daughter as Elizabeth sat in front of Cory’s laptop, reviewing the recovered evidence against her, with Carl and Rachel both looking over her shoulder. “So please don’t insult either of our intelligences by trying.”
Elizabeth, however, was in no mood to follow directions. She turned around to face her parents, noting, “This is Cory’s machine.”
“Steven accessed your network remotely.”
“He could have faked it. Steven knows how to do that.”
Like father, like daughter, Rachel thought. But, all she said was, “Why would he do that, Elizabeth?”
“Because he hates me. Because they all hate me. Steven, Jamie, Amanda, Matt, all of them. I thought Cory was different, but – “
“Your brother loves you very much,” Rachel said tiredly. “Very, very much. Right after he showed me this, you don’t know how long he spent trying to explain to me why you did what you did.”
“I didn’t do anything!” Elizabeth insisted. “Father!” She turned to Carl; only defiance where pleading might have been expected.
“Can you explain,” he asked with eerie calm. “Why testimony identical to yours should show up on websites accessed weeks before you made your accusation against Kevin?”
“I’m telling you, it was faked! Steven faked it!”
“How?” Rachel crossed her arms. “Steven had no way of knowing what you said to Toni Burrell. He was nowhere near the premises. Is your nephew now a mind-reader?”
“He could have hacked into the BCPD computer, accessed my testimony, and mocked these up.”
“She has a point, Rachel,” Carl grasped at a straw.
“No, she doesn’t,” Rachel snapped, furious at having to battle them both. “For goodness’ sake, Elizabeth, the least you can do is own up to your crimes.”
“Are you calling me a criminal?” Elizabeth aimed the words at Rachel, but she looked to Carl, gauging how he was taking it before deciding how much further to push.
“What you did to Kevin was the definition of criminal,” Rachel seethed. “I demand that you admit your actions so we can get started on making the best amends we can – “
“Like you did, Mom?”
That brought Rachel up short. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means we all know the story of Rachel Davis Matthews Frame – whoever came in the middle – Cory, the bad girl who stepped up and made allocution regarding all her awful deeds on the road to redemption.”
“I don’t see how any of that is relevant,” Rachel snapped.
“It’s relevant because you got so much into the habit of groveling that you’re still doing it. You’re still begging people to forgive you. Only this time, the horrible sin you want everyone to excuse is you marrying Father!”
“Once again,” Carl said levelly. “Our daughter has a point.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“None of this,” Carl indicated Elizabeth, the hacked machine, the three of them at each other’s throats. “Would have even been necessary, if you hadn’t seen fit to kow-tow to your grown children’s version of a Terrible Twos temper tantrum.”
“Are you excusing what Elizabeth’s done?” Rachel hissed.
Carl shook his head, the only one not currently on the edge of losing his temper. “I am merely explaining it.”
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|