“I told you not to wait up for me,” Jamie murmured, squatting by the living room couch where Lorna lay curled up, asleep, when he finally got home the next morning.
“Clearly I didn’t.” She opened her eyes groggily, craning her neck to kiss him, then awkwardly sitting up, making room for him on the couch, resting her head on Jamie’s shoulder as he slipped his arm around her.
“So,” Lorna stifled a yawn. “What’s new?’
“Well,” Jamie dragged out the word for as long as possible. “In descending order of importance: Mom’s dropped the charges against Kevin.”
“She has?” That woke Lorna all the way up, and fast. “Why?”
“She found evidence Elizabeth was lying. Well, technically Cory and Steven found the evidence, and showed it to Mom. She couldn’t deny it any longer.”
“Carl… It wasn’t…”
“No, nothing like that,” Jamie reassured. “She made the whole thing up, every bit of it. Studied real victims’ testimony, then put together her own version.”
“Good,” Lorna said. “I mean, not good what she put Kevin through. But, good that Carl… I’m glad I was wrong.”
“Me, too. That would have been… I’m glad for Mom’s sake. And Elizabeth’s, too.”
“You said Steven was involved?”
“He hacked into Elizabeth’s computer, got her browsing history, despite Elizabeth trying to erase it. It was Cory’s idea.”
“Smart. On both their parts.”
“Oh, yeah, my son’s a real genius. I’ve got the paperwork to prove it. He’s so brilliant, he’s off to New York in a couple of hours to confront a felon whose last known offense was pistol-whipping a man into a coma during an armed robbery. That’s real smart.”
“Wait. Hold up. Steven is doing what?”
“Jen’s biological father. We need to test him to see if he’d make a good bone-marrow match for her. Kevin can’t go, he’s in court, getting officially vindicated. But, time is of the essence, so Steven volunteered.”
“Why?” Lorna questioned, baffled. Then, based off the look on Jamie’s face. “Oh…”
“But, she… Jen… Aren’t she and GQ…”
“Yup,” Jamie confirmed. “Good thing we Frame men are renowned far and wide for our spectacular, romantic gestures. That, more often than not, go overlooked.”
“Not by the right woman,” Lorna reminded.
“Not by the right woman,” Jamie agreed, smiling down at her.
“Did you try talking him out of it?”
“I did. But, the kid’s on a mission. Hell, who am I to talk? I was ready to leave Steven to go on the run with Marley when we thought she’d be arrested for shooting Jake.”
“Not to mention taking the fall for Lucas over Cecile’s murder,” Lorna reminded softly. “I haven’t forgotten.”
“You were willing to sacrifice everything to keep me out of jail then, too. I’d say we’re even on that front.”
“So I guess Steven is just a chip off the old block.”
Jamie shook his head in a combination of exasperation and pride. “Let’s just hope things work out equally well for him and Jen.”
“They will,” Lorna predicted confidently. “Eventually. This is Bay City. Nobody gets relationships right on the first try.”
“Oh, and that reminds me. My third bit of news: Matt and Donna are married.”
“Matt and Donna are what?” Lorna swiveled her head to look at Jamie. “I’ve heard of deathbed weddings, but is there such a thing as a deathbed divorce? Not that Matt is even dying, right?”
“Matt’s on the road to recovery. And no, he didn’t need to divorce Jeanne in order to marry Donna, because they apparently went ahead and did that last summer, months before he and Jeanne had their ceremony.”
“Do I want to know why?”
“What was Matt thinking?”
“He was thinking that he loves her. And that this time, it’s all going to work out.”
“Well put,” Jamie grinned, just before the ringing doorbell prompted him to get up from the couch and greet their visitors.
“Good morning, Jamie. Lorna.” Rachel pushed her younger daughter over the threshold. “Elizabeth would like a word with you, if you don’t mind.”
“I wanted you to hear it from me, first,” Donna informed her own daughter after an equally unanticipated arrival at Marley’s home. “Not that you’ve extended anything resembling a similar courtesy to me recently.”
“What are you talking about?” Marley sighed, long ago having learned that letting Donna say her piece ultimately provided a much shorter and less painful encounter than trying to head her off.
“Matthew and I are married.”
Marley’s eyes widened. “Excuse me?”
“Since last summer, as a matter of fact.”
“What about Jeanne Ewing?”
“That’s thankfully over with, never to be referenced again, should I have anything to say about it.”
Marley opened her mouth to clarify, then abruptly changed her mind and merely shook her head, shrugging. “Okay. Whatever.”
“That’s all you have to say?”
“Well, I could extend my condolences to Matt. But, that somehow doesn’t seem very polite.”
“Honestly, darling, considering your own taste in husbands – “
“This has nothing to do with my feelings about Matt,” Marley clarified. “I like Matt.”
“So it’s me you object to, then.”
“Hardly a news-flash.”
“The reason Matthew was forced to marry Jeanne, Marley, was because she had evidence I’d hidden footage of you driving Grant’s campaign car the night of Lorna and Morgan’s hit and run. Matt did it to protect me. And I did it to protect you.”
“I didn’t ask for your protection, Donna,” Marley bristled, unable to process her mother’s shocking confession any other way.
“No. Instead, you turned to Grant. Grant! A man who made your sister’s life miserable!”
“At least Grant didn’t get his own child killed because they’d become an inconvenience.”
“That’s all fixed now,” Donna took offense that the charge – erroneous to begin with – was still, after all this time, being used against her.
Marley laughed grimly. “That’s been fixed now? You’ve somehow managed to fix Jenna’s death for Dean and Felicia and Lori Ann?”
“I have,” Donna began. “Dean’s lawsuit…”
“I thought he dropped it.”
“He did. But, I decided to give him what he’d asked for, in any case. What he’d asked for, and more. As of yesterday, I’ve turned my entire financial estate over to Lori Ann.”
“Why?” Marley proved equally as baffled here as Lorna had been over Steven.
“To make amends, of course. To show how truly regretful I am about the pain that poor boy has suffered.”
“And you thought money would take care of the problem?”
“It’s what Dean wanted,” Donna insisted, wondering why she seemed to be the only one capable of comprehending the logic of her gesture.
“You think Dean wanted your money? Dean wanted you to be held accountable for your crimes. Dean wanted justice.”
“He was perfectly happy to take what I offered,” Donna informed Marley with as much dignity as she could muster. “For Lori Ann’s sake.”
“This is so like you, Donna.”
“Why do I suspect you don’t mean that as a compliment, darling?”
“Throwing money at a problem to make it go away. If you had your way, writing a check would be the answer to everything. Jenna, me, Vicky, Bridget and Michele….”
“What’s wrong with Bridget and Michele?” Donna caught the crack in Marley’s voice at the mention of Victoria’s children.
Marley took a deep breath, debating the wisdom of filling Donna in, but too exhausted to make up an acceptable excuse. She said, “The girls found out about Jake raping me.”
“They’re very, very confused right now. About Jake, about Vicky and how she could have married him. About me and how I could have forgiven him. I tried to explain, but, I’m afraid I did more harm than good. I’m sure they’ve still got a million questions. Now that I think about it, if I were you, Donna, I’d start thinking about what you’re going to tell them, when Michele and Bridget dig up the dirt on you and Jake, as well.”
“Can I come in?” Jeanne timidly stood at the door to Matt’s room.
“Sure.” He propped himself up to a sitting position.
“How are you feeling?” Jeanne asked.
“Wiped. Terrified. Grateful.”
“I’ve been calling your mom for updates. She told me you were going to be okay.”
“So they say.”
“She also told me about you… and Donna.”
Matt winced. “Mom told you everything?”
“Only as far as the part about you two being married. Is there more?”
“She told you everything,” Matt admitted.
“That was a good move on your part,” Jeanne seemed genuinely complimentary. “Marrying her before me.”
“It was Donna’s idea.”
“I’m glad you finally have what you wanted, Matt.”
“Well, no,” she confessed. “But, it’s what the social convention calls for, isn’t it?”
“I thought you never lied.” He smiled.
“I was hoping saying the words would make it the truth.”
Matt smiled weakly. “I’m really sorry about how things worked out, Jeanne. But, you know, now that you and I aren’t… Maybe you and Dean can really…”
“No.” Jeanne shook her head. “Dean isn’t… He doesn’t… Dean doesn’t want anything to do with me. He made that perfectly clear.”
“Donna thinks this is supposed to make up for her killing Jenna?” Felicia stared, dumb-struck, at the documents Frankie and Cass had shown her. “And John judged her well enough to leave Clareview? The woman is certifiable, you don’t need a medical license to see it!”
“Donna’s motives are irrelevant,” Cass noted.
“Blood money. That’s what this is. She’s given Lori Ann blood money.”
“She’s given Lori Ann enough money to make sure that whatever health challenges she has down the line, she will always be well taken care of.”
“We all would have seen to that, in any case.”
“That’s exactly what I said,” Frankie piped up.
“And besides, Lori Ann is fine.”
At this, Frankie didn’t side nearly as quickly with her daughter’s grandmother. Frankie and Cass exchanged looks. They hadn’t meant for the conversation to take this turn, but, since Felicia had brought up the subject….
Frankie, trying to break it as gently as she could, corrected Felicia, “Lori Ann is not fine. She’ll be three in August, and she is way behind on her milestones. Both her gross and her fine motor skills are weak – “
“So she won’t be an Olympic athlete. Or a concert pianist,” Felicia dismissed blithely.
“Her speech is still very difficult to understand…”
“Or a politician.”
Frankie took a deep breath, knowing the last one would be the toughest to accept. “Cognitively – intellectually, she functions at the level of a child half her age.”
“According to whom?” Felicia demanded to know.
“Experts,” Cass told her grimly.
“Experts. What do experts know? Experts told me my husband was dead. They told you the same thing about your wife, didn’t they, Cass? If I never listen to another expert in my life, it will be too soon.”
“That’s very possible,” Cass declined to argue. “And Lori Ann is receiving extensive physical and speech and occupational therapy, which could very well help down the line. But, right now, we have to face the fact that Lori Ann is developmentally delayed. And that she might stay that way for the rest of her life.”
Felicia heard what he was saying – and understood what he was implying. But, all she could think of in response was, “What’s so great about being a genius, anyway? Look at Steven Frame? What’s being a genius gotten him?”
Frankie said, “You’re right. Lori Ann is no less of a person because her IQ is below average – as of now,” she hurried to add. “We certainly don’t see her as being any less, and we have no intention of treating her as any less.”
“Thank you,” Felicia whispered, the closest she could get to acknowledging and accepting the situation.
“But, the fact is,” Cass brought the conversation around. “We have to consider the possibility that Lori Ann might never be able to live independently. She may need lifelong care. And there is no better way to insure that than to accept Donna’s money.”
“I hate this,” Felicia said. “I hate being beholden to that woman.”
“You’re not,” Frankie insisted. “Donna isn’t doing us a favor. She’s paying off a debt.”
“She’s not even close to paying it,” Felicia hissed.
“You’re right,” Cass said. “But, for Lori Ann’s sake, I think we have no choice but to take what Donna is offering.”
“Do I have to be happy about it?” Felicia clarified.
Cass double-checked the documents and reassured her, “Not even a little.”
“You’re the second stop on my Mea Culpa tour,” Elizabeth helpfully filled in Lorna and Jamie. “After Kevin.”
“I should certainly hope so!” Lorna snapped.
Elizabeth shrugged. “Anyway, sorry for sending those sexual harassment papers of yours to BCZ.”
“Believe it or not,” Rachel had given up forcing her daughter into an act of true contrition and was settling just for getting Elizabeth to mouth the words. “This is a great deal more sincere than the apology she offered Kevin and Amanda yesterday.”
“How did you get your hands on that document, anyway?” Jamie wondered.
Elizabeth hesitated, a fact that Rachel noticed, but Lorna didn’t, eager as she was to get to a more pressing question. “And why did you do it in the first place?”
Another shrug. “I wouldn’t have had to do anything, if the rest of you had just left my father alone.”
But, Lorna wasn’t about to let her get away with such an obvious dodge. “You leaked my sexual harassment claim to BCZ the morning before Jamie and I got married. That was almost exactly a year ago. No one had done anything to Carl, then.”
“Jamie, Amanda, and Matt lived in the same house with the rest of us for ten years. I knew they didn’t like Father, and he didn’t like them much, either.”
Rachel sighed, disturbed that her children had all seen something that she, in retrospect, had obviously, willfully closed her eyes to for over a decade.
Elizabeth continued, “But, it didn’t matter. It’s a big house. He stayed out of their way, they stayed out of his, and everything was fine.”
“I still don’t see what that has to do with anything,” Jamie prompted his sister.
“Everything changed as soon as she showed up,” Elizabeth indicated Lorna. “Suddenly, it was all: Remember how horrible Carl used to be? Remember all the terrible things he did?”
“She,” Jamie said evenly. “Showed up because her sister was very sick. Primarily as a result of things that happened because of the kind of man Carl used to be.”
“That’s unfair, Jamie,” Rachel interrupted. “Carl was as much a victim of Donna’s lies as Jenna and Felicia were.”
“Jenna wasn’t even her sister, really,” Elizabeth added. “Actually, she was mine.”
“Just for the record,” Lorna informed Elizabeth. “You are nothing like her. Which is a damn shame.”
“None of this is relevant right now,” Jamie cut all three of them off. “You don’t like Lorna, Elizabeth? That’s fine. You are welcome not to like her. As you might suspect, I’m not too crazy about Matt’s wife these days, either. The difference is, I’m not going out of my way to make Donna’s life miserable.”
“She,” Elizabeth once again refused to use Lorna’s name. “Tried to set Donna on fire.”
“Don’t mess with me again, Elizabeth,” Lorna didn’t feel like being as reserved as Jamie. “I know how to keep unruly almost-fifteen year old girls in line. I learned from the best.”
“You see?” Elizabeth turned to Rachel. “There she goes again! It’s like she can’t even put together a complete sentence without insulting Father in the process.”
“Jamie, Lorna,” Rachel struggled not to get pulled into another fight – or agreement –with Elizabeth. “Thank you for your time. You have not only Elizabeth’s, but my apology, as well, regarding what happened a year ago. We’ll be going now.”
“Actually,” Lorna spoke up unexpectedly, an idea obviously forming in her head. “Could you wait a minute? I’d like to have a word with Elizabeth. In private.”
“All set?” Jen asked Steven when he popped by the hospital on his way to the airport.
“Yup. I got your dad’s address, and a recent picture. If he’s not there when I first stop by, and if he won’t answer his phone, I’ll wait for him until he does.”
“Be careful, okay, Steven?”
“Hey, according to all reports, your dad’s been a model citizen since he left jail.”
“Model citizens answer their phones.”
“Not if they’re low on minutes.”
“I don’t remember him very well,” Jen admitted. “But, I do remember that he could be… unpredictable. As in scary unpredictable. Then again, I was just a kid.”
“It’s going to be okay,” Steven reassured. “I’m just asking the guy for a cheek swab.”
“And if there’s no match,” Jen said. “Then that’s that.”
“You almost sound like that’s the outcome you’re hoping for.”
“It would make things easier.”
“Not things like your bone marrow transplant.”
“There’s still the national registry.”
“You heard what my dad said. Not a lot of African-American donors. And that’s your best bet for a tissue match.”
“At least an anonymous donor has already agreed to be operated on.”
“And you’re afraid your dad… won’t.”
“Why should he?” Jen looked down at her hands, kneading the hospital blanket. “I’m nothing to him. I never was.”
“Maybe he’ll surprise you. You know how I feel about Grant. But, he really came through when Kirkland needed that blood transfusion over New Year’s.”
“Grant came back to Bay City for Kirkland. It’s not the same thing.”
“It’s going to be okay,” Steven repeated. “We’ll make this happen.”
“My dad threatened to go after Horace with a chain saw, if he refused.”
“Let’s hope it won’t have to happen that way,” Steven amended smoothly.
“GQ accused him of just wanting to use Horace for spare parts.”
“GQ has a lot of… strong opinions about things.”
“I didn’t tell him you were going to New York.”
“He wouldn’t have liked it,” Jen said. Without specifying what it was exactly about the trip that GQ wouldn’t like.
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