“I heard about Kevin,” Jamie caught up to Alice at the hospital. “Amanda said he confessed to Horace Johnson’s murder?”
Alice nodded, continuing to walk down the corridor in the direction of Jamie’s office. “He wanted to get it over with before Christmas. Amanda convinced him to wait. She was hoping everything would just blow over.”
“He did it to save his daughter’s life,” Jamie observed. “I can’t imagine a judge overlooking that.”
“I can’t either. But, I can imagine one wanting to send a message to the next desperate parent looking to take the law into their own hands.”
“You think they’ll try to make an example out of Kevin?”
“I don’t know what to think,” Alice admitted. “This is all very, very unlike him.”
Jamie felt obliged to point out, “None of us know how far we might go when our backs are pressed against the wall. Especially when it comes to people we love. If you put a gun in my hand today, pointed me at a random guy and said that shooting his head off would bring Lorna back? I’m not sure that I’d be able to keep from pulling the trigger.”
“The way Kevin went about it, though,” Alice couldn’t let go. “Something doesn’t feel right.”
Jamie confessed, “I’m sorry for Amanda and Jen. And for you. But, truth is, when Amanda first told me, my first thought was: Thank God. Otherwise, I was afraid Steven was involved.”
“He’s in love with Jen,” Jamie filled Alice in.
“Oh. But… GQ…”
“Since when has that ever stopped a Frame man?”
Alice smiled wistfully.
Jamie went on, “I’m sure Mike Bauer is already on a plane to Bay City. He’ll see to it that Kevin gets the best defense.”
“Kevin doesn’t want to go to trial. He intends to plea bargain.”
“Wow,” Jamie’s eyes widened.
“It’s what you did a couple of years ago,” Alice reminded.
“Yes, well, I had a good reason. I was trying to keep the truth from coming out about my past with Cecile. Kevin… “
“You also weren’t guilty,” Alice reminded pointedly. “That’s the main truth you were trying to keep secret.”
“If you need anything,” Jamie said prior to disappearing into his office. “Anything at all as this is going on, I’m here for you, okay?”
Alice was about to respond. Until she caught sight of Rachel waiting for Jamie just beyond the door. Not looking particularly pleased.
“Seriously, Al?” Back pressed against the incline of the delivery table, Sarah caught her breath between contractions and being told by Raya to push to ask Allie, “You did this without an epidural?”
“Wasn’t my choice,” Allie responded dryly.
“Epidurals,” Sarah informed Raya, perched at the end of the table. “Are the greatest invention in the history of humanity.”
“So I’ve been told,” Raya noted with a smile. “Ready to push again?”
Sarah nodded, grabbing Allie’s hand for support, taking a deep breath and doing as Raya directed, taking care to exhale as she did so.
“Almost there,” Raya encouraged. “Just a few more, you’re doing great.”
Allie’s eyes drifted towards the clock, then to the door of the delivery room.
“Got someplace else you need to be?” Sarah wondered.
Allie gulped. “I was thinking… I was hoping….”
“Grant,” she blurted out. “I texted Grant a couple of hours ago. Told him what was going on.”
“I thought he’d want to be here. I thought if he saw his baby being born he’d – “
“What?” Sarah snapped, furious at Allie, at Grant, but mostly at herself. “You thought he’d magically change his mind? He’d fall in love with me again? He’d fall in love with the baby?”
“Yes,” Allie said. “That’s exactly what I thought.”
“It could happen.”
“Right. GQ saw Hudson being born. How’d that work out for you guys?”
“That was different. He thought Hudson was Gregory’s.”
“Grant claims he doesn’t believe me either. He hates me.”
“That’s what I used to think about GQ, too.”
“What are you talking about?”
“He… He came to see me. He told me he still loves me.”
“He what?” Sarah nearly sat up in the stirrups.
“He said, when he saw me in the ice, he realized he couldn’t live without me. He went home and he broke up with Jen. And now he says he wants me back.”
“Wow,” Sarah exhaled. Even Raya seemed interested in this story.
“Yeah,” Allie agreed.
“So? Are you going to – “
“No!” Allie insisted emphatically. “No, absolutely not. Not after everything he’s done.”
“Sarah,” Raya prompted playfully. “Think you might want to focus over here for a little bit?”
Sarah made a face. “Can I ask you to wait a minute?”
“You can ask me,” Raya stressed magnanimously. “The baby on the other hand…”
“Gotcha,” Sarah felt the incipient tightening and, at Raya’s cue, pushed again.
She may have been too preoccupied to talk, so Allie picked up the slack, telling her friend, “The point is, it can happen. If you want it to. If GQ can change his mind about me, then Grant could definitely change his about you. And you two guys are different. You still love him, I know you do.”
“Daddy,” Jen said, the word so full of meaning it’s doubtful she could have expressed herself any better with paragraphs. She and Steven entered the holding area where Kevin sat, bracing himself in anticipation of seeing her.
“I’m sorry, Jenny,” Kevin said.
“I’m the one who’s sorry,” she pleaded. “You’re here because of me.”
“No!” Both Kevin and Steven barked in unison, exchanging guilty glances as they did so, both cognizant of the real story.
She refused to be cowed. “So you had some other reason to get Horace killed? One that had nothing to do with me?”
Kevin couldn’t help smiling. “That’s my girl.”
“Amanda says you intend to plead guilty and waive your right to a trial,” Steven cut to the chase. It was the one area he felt comfortable in.
“I won’t let you do that,” Jen crossed her arms.
“Jenny,” Kevin did his best to make his daughter understand. “I got your father killed.”
“That man wasn’t my father. You’re my father.”
“I didn’t meant to,” Kevin continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “But it happened.”
“If you didn’t mean to, then you aren’t guilty.”
“Maybe in the cognitive science sense. Not in the legal sense.”
“You can fight this. I’ll testify. So will Alice, Jamie, everybody. They’ll explain what Horace tried to pull, they’ll explain how sick I was. And they’ll explain the kind of guy Horace was.” Jen turned to Steven. “You’re the one who first found him in New York. You’ll testify too, won’t you?”
“Sure,” Steven said, watching Kevin from out of the corner of his eye.
“Even GQ agreed with you in the end. Horace was scum.”
“That still gave me no right to end his life,” Kevin pointed out.
“Damn it, Daddy, I won’t let you do this. I won’t let you give up. Have you called Mr. Bauer yet?”
“No. I can handle this myself.”
Kevin exhaled. “I’m glad you understand.”
“I’ll call him for you.”
“Jenny!” Kevin called out, but she was already out the door, cell-phone in hand.
Leaving only Kevin and Steven. And their secret.
“Are you here to harangue me too?” Donna inquired as soon as Matt came into their bedroom, the look on his face suggesting Lila had filled Matt in regarding Jasmine’s escapade and Donna’s role in it.
“Haranguing you never does any good,” Matt observed sensibly. “So what I am trying to do is understand.”
“Is it that difficult to understand my wishing to help your child?”
“You knew that Lila and I were against it.”
“Jasmine deserved to have some fun. You can’t keep that precious girl sequestered day and night.”
“We’ve hardly got her under lock and key in a secret room underneath the house,” Matt said gently.
Donna’s eyes flashed. “Why is everyone bringing up Reginald? First Lila, now you.”
“Because Reginald is who this is really about. You look at Jasmine and you see – “
“I would never, ever, ever suggest that you – “
“Maybe not consciously,” Matt said.
“I simply wanted to bond with my stepdaughter,” Donna corrected haughtily. And then, in a small voice, she added, “I wanted her to like me.”
“Jasmine does like you.”
“I wanted to be her friend.”
“But, you weren’t acting like her friend. You were trying to act like her parent.”
“A step-parent is a kind of parent.”
“I wouldn’t go that far.”
“Why not? A step-stool is a kind of stool.”
Matt smiled. “I love you.”
She let the endearment pass without comment. “What about you and Mac? He was your stepfather, but he certainly acted otherwise.”
“That was different. Mac stepped up when Mitch wasn’t around. He was a real father to me. I needed him. Jasmine already has a mother.”
“So did Perry. Yet he and I managed to have a perfectly lovely relationship. It even outlasted my marriage to Carl!”
“You know, I was just a kid when Perry lived in Bay City…”
“No need to rub it in, Matthew.”
“But I seem to remember him mostly playing you against Carl in order to get his way.”
“As you said, Matthew, you were a child. What did you know?”
“I don’t want that to be the case with Jasmine. I don’t want her using you to manipulate Lila and me. You deserve better.”
“Perhaps. But, what I currently have is one daughter who won’t speak to me, two grandsons who find me at best, peripheral, three granddaughters who barely know me, and one stepchild who actually considers me useful. I’ll take what I can get, Matthew.”
“There you are!” Zeno exclaimed in surprise when Allie finally returned to her hospital room. “Where have you been? I’ve been waiting.”
“Just something I needed to take care of,” Allie dismissed, awkwardly adding, “Hi, Zeno.”
“Hi, Allie.” He stepped up to kiss her. “Fancy meeting you here.”
“I – I was going to call and tell you.”
“Hey, it’s cool. You’re in the hospital. Obviously, you have more important stuff on your mind. How are you? Are you okay?”
“Oh. Yeah. I’m fine. They’re actually supposed to discharge me today.”
“Listen, I’m really sorry I didn’t call you.”
“And I’m really sincere when I say it’s okay.”
“How did you find out?”
“Frankie told me.”
“Oh. Yeah. Right. I guess I should have figured she would.”
“What happened, Allie? Frankie told me her version, but it didn’t make a lot of sense. How did you and Charlie end up in the woods in the middle of a storm?”
“She ran me off the road. She kept slamming her car into mine until I skid into a snow-bank. And then she got out… She had a stick. A huge one, like a whole branch. She hit the window with it. Almost cracked it, too. She tried to hit me with it. But, I ran away. That’s how I ended up falling through the ice. The lake was covered with snow. I didn’t realize where I was until it was too late.”
“That sucks. I’m sorry,” was all Zeno could think of to say.
“Thanks.” She smiled at him. “But, it’s not like it was your fault.”
He hesitated, then cautiously ventured, “Frankie told me that, while she was going after you, Charlie said something about… me?”
“She wasn’t making much sense.”
“But she did mention me?”
“I think I know why,” Zeno said.
“Hello, Rachel,” Alice smiled pleasantly at Jamie’s mother.
“Alice,” she responded with equal politeness.
“It’s nice to see you again. Are you feeling better?”
“Much,” Rachel said.
“That’s good to hear. Now, if you’ll both excuse me, I have rounds to do.” Jamie’s stepmother discreetly closed the door of his office behind her.
“Hi, Mom.” Jamie had long ago learned to rise above any interaction his mother might have with Alice on any given day. He found it helped keep his blood-pressure from spiking.
“Hello, darling.” Rachel stood up to kiss him on the cheek and Jamie let her as he walked past to step behind his desk. She said, “I stopped by the house earlier, saw the girls.”
“They’re pretty cute, aren’t they?” Jamie couldn’t help playing proud Dad for a moment.
“They’re absolutely gorgeous,” Rachel concurred. Then added, “I saw Felicia there, as well.”
“Yeah, she’s been great about stepping up to help when the nanny isn’t available.”
“I – I didn’t realize you’d grown so comfortable leaving her with the children.”
“Well, I’m trying not to impose. Felicia’s got her hands full with Lori Ann, now that Cass and Frankie are here round the clock with Charlie.”
“How is Charlie?” Rachel asked.
“Non-responsive. We’re not sure exactly what’s going on. Still running tests.”
“Amanda says Charlie assaulted Allie.”
“Yeah,” Jamie sighed. “It’s a real mess. I think about what might have happened if GQ and Kirk hadn’t shown up… Or, worse, what if they’d gotten hurt, too?”
“Your son is a hero.”
“Would you tell him that? Please? All Kirkland can think about is that he somehow let Charlie down.”
“Well, he’s a lot like his father. He takes everything much too much to heart.”
“I’d say he’ll grow out of it, but, then again, I’m still waiting to,” Jamie smiled.
“Which is why I’m so surprised about your recent rapprochement with Felicia,” Rachel circled back to her original point. “I’d have thought, after everything that’s happened, you wouldn’t feel particularly comfortable leaving her in charge of your children.”
“Felicia and I are… fine now.”
“When did that happen?”
“What does it matter?”
“I’m simply curious. After all, if you can forgive her, maybe there’s some hope of you one day deigning to grant me the same privilege.”
“What? What, Jamie?”
“Why not? Is everything pertaining to your life now out of bounds as far as I’m concerned? I can’t even ask a question? God knows, Felicia was no more eager to answer than you are. What are the two of you hiding?”
“Nothing,” Jamie stressed. “You’re imagining things.”
“Oh, really? And am I also imagining that you would rather turn to Felicia, to Alice, to random people on the street for all I know, before you’d even think about asking me for help or support or even a chance to see my grandchildren?”
“Things are… complicated.”
“They shouldn’t be. Not when it comes to you and me. I am your mother. Not your mother-in-law, not your stepmother, your mother. How do you think it makes me feel, knowing that you don’t trust me?”
“Sorry that I feel this way, or sorry that it’s true?”
“I never, ever want to hurt you.”
“Then you are failing miserably.”
“I wish it didn’t have to be this way.”
“Why? Why does it have to be this way? What aren’t you telling me, Jamie? What’s going on? Why are you willing to lean on Felicia and Alice but not me? Why can’t you come to me? Why don’t you trust me?”
“Because, Mom,” Jamie exploded, unable to take it any more. “Because I don’t believe you weren’t involved in Lorna’s disappearance.”
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