“I saw her, darling,” Iris flew into Sarah’s hospital room without bothering to lower herself to anything as plebian as knocking… or being invited. “Our baby. She is absolutely magnificent.”
“For a baby,” Sarah attempted to sound nonchalant while, at the same time, clearly relishing hearing her own opinion being confirmed. “She is pretty cool.”
“What’s her name?” Iris asked eagerly.
“I’m still… working on it,” Sarah lied.
“Well, you know, the family tradition is to name after the grandmother. Amanda is named after Daddy’s mother. Though I always did wonder why I wasn’t…” Sarah’s grandmother trailed off. “That’s not important now.”
“You think I should name the baby Olivia?” Sarah asked teasingly.
“Well…” Iris stammered.
“I have a couple of ideas of my own,” Sarah let Iris off the hook. “Just trying to pick the best one.”
“Why didn’t you ring me, darling?” Iris changed tacks. “I could have been there with you, helped you.”
“I had Allie,” Sarah said. “She was great.”
“Allie,” Iris sniffed, making what she felt about Amanda’s child crystal clear.
“The whole thing was kind of intense. And gross. I didn’t want an audience.”
“Not even Grant?” Iris pried pointedly.
Sarah shrugged. “That wasn’t an option.”
“At least let me be there when you bring our little girl home. At least allow me to be a part of that special moment.”
“I don’t know…” Sarah hedged. “I kind of wanted us to get settled into our new place alone. You know, just the two of us.”
“I told you before, I’m not going back to Grandpa’s. He doesn’t need a crying baby waking him up at all hours of the night. I rented an apartment. Allie is helping me get everything set up. You know, furniture and diapers and other stuff. And then I’m going to go straight there from the hospital.”
“But how will you possibly manage on your own?”
“I’m hardly the first woman to have a baby by myself. I’ll do it the way all those other women do it.”
“You’re being silly.”
“I’m trying to be an adult. To take responsibility for my own actions.”
Iris inhaled deeply, realizing that Sarah’s mind was made up and that this was not a good time to try and press her point. All she said instead was, “Very well. Do what you like.”
“But, remember one thing, my darling: One day, and it will come sooner than you think, believe me; you are going to need a friend. More than a friend. An ally. A champion. And that will always, always, always be me. I intend to look out for you, Sarah. I won’t let anyone use you or hurt you again. No matter what. No matter how. No matter whom.”
“Talk to her,” Frankie urged Zeno as the pair of them stood over Charlie’s bed, the girl no more responsive now than she’d been since being admitted weeks earlier.
“I – What do you want me to say?”
“Tell her that everything is going to be okay. Tell her that she’s safe. Tell her Kirkland never has to know about what happened between you and her.”
For a moment, Zeno looked like he might argue with Frankie. But then he changed his mind and, with a sigh, pulled up a chair to sit down and address Charlie face to face.
“Hey,” Zeno said. When there was no reaction, he pressed on. “It’s Zeno. I – Your mom – Frankie… she wanted me to come and see you. I’m sorry you’re sick. I hope you feel better soon.”
Zeno peered over his shoulder at Frankie, whose facial expression was forcefully willing Zeno to hurry up and start following her script.
He cleared his throat. “Frankie thinks you’re scared that I’m going to tell Kirk about what happened between us. I’m not. I mean, it’s nobody’s business but ours. Only reason I told your mom was because… Well, that doesn’t matter. Everything is going to be fine, Charlie. You’ve got nothing to be afraid of, no reason not to wake up. Frankie and Cass, they’re really worried about out. I’m worried about you, too.”
He waited expectantly. Nothing happened.
Until, very slowly, Charlie’s hand appeared to drift atop the blanket. And grab on to Zeno’s.
“Senator Harrison?” The nurse had to call Grant’s name several times before she managed to yank him out of the reverie he’d fallen into while standing in front of the viewing window at Bay City University Hospital’s nursery. Staring in wonder at his newborn daughter.
She was impossibly tiny. Although the little card above her head, “Baby Girl Matthews-Wheeler” swore her weight was a perfectly healthy seven pounds, three ounces, Grant couldn’t get over how tiny she was. He’d never known Kirkland at this age – barely a few hours old. Vicky had deprived him of the privilege. By the time father and son were finally reunited – and that imposter baby handed over – Kirkland had been a strapping infant, capable of lifting his head, sucking his thumb, tracking objects with his eyes. This child could do none of those things.
She lay on her back, hands by her ears, tiny fingers curled into fists. Her nearly translucent eyelids fluttered with each breath. She wore a pink and blue hat over a handful of blonde wisps, and her legs would periodically jerk outwards, independent from the rest of her body.
“Senator Harrison,” the nurse repeated.
“W-what?” Grant startled.
“I… I’m sorry, sir. But, I read the papers and…”
“What?” he barked, more harshly now.
“Would you… would you like to hold her?”
It was the last thing Grant expected, and with the adrenalin still coursing through his bloodstream, he wasn’t sure how to react. He opened his mouth to say no. That would be too much, too fast. But instead he felt himself slowly nodding, as if in a daze.
“Come with me,” the nurse beckoned Grant forward and into the room with all the babies.
Dressed in his street clothes, Grant felt grossly out of place. Shouldn’t he be wearing surgical scrubs, gloves, something? How could someone as… as… as inappropriate as him possibly be given a newborn baby to hold?
“Here you go, sir.” She whisked Sarah’s child out of the bassinet and into Grant’s arms.
Grant blinked. Truly, that was the sole thing he felt capable of doing at the moment.
The infant barely weighed anything. He felt like one wrong move and he’d drop her. Or maybe she’d just float away, as if this whole thing had been a dream from the beginning.
“She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” Grant wasn’t sure how long he’d been standing there. All he knew was, when he looked up, Sarah was there, too. “She’s absolutely perfect.”
“Yes,” Grant choked out.
“I knew you’d come,” Sarah said. “I figured you’d be able to stay away from me. But not from her. Not for long.”
“What…” Grant needed to know. “What’s her name?”
Sarah smiled and, unlike with Iris, told him the moniker she’d picked out over a year before. Before everything had gone so horribly wrong. Back when everything was still as perfect as she was. “Daisy,” Sarah said.
“Daisy Jane Harrison.”
“Daisy Jane,” Grant repeated.
He looked so stupefied, Sarah felt compelled to prompt, “Don’t you remember?”
He remembered. The song playing outside of BCU’s 1970s retro-dance. A lifetime ago.
Well, I've been pickin' it up around me/ Daisy, I think I'm sane/ Well, I'm awful glad/ And I guess you're really to blame…
America. Daisy Jane.
He swallowed hard. “I remember, Sarah.”
She smiled. And Grant, once again in spite of himself, smiled back. The two of them simply stood there then, beaming at their daughter.
While, from the side, Marley could only watch in silence.
“Thanks for meeting me,” Jamie welcomed both Matt and Amanda into his house. He told his sister, “I know you’ve got a lot going on with Kevin…”
“Actually, I don’t,” she snapped, bitterness spilling out until they were all soaked in it. “I don’t have anything to do, because my husband won’t let me do anything. He’s decided to plead guilty to murder, and that’s that.”
“If it were my daughter,” Matt offered. “I probably would have done the same thing, if it meant saving her life.”
“But you’d have fought the charges,” Amanda challenged. “You wouldn’t have just rolled over and played dead.”
“Alice says Kevin has his reasons,” Jamie directed them to the living room.
“Forget it, okay?” Amanda threw her hands up in the air, sitting down in defeat. “What did you want to see us about?”
Jamie took a seat as well, facing them both. “Mom,” he said.
“I… I wanted to discuss the three of us cutting her some slack. About Carl, I mean.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Matt leaned forward.
“It means, I think it’s time we all swallowed our feelings about Carl and tried to be there more for Mom. What she’s been through, losing Cory and Elizabeth…”
“And whose fault was that?” Amanda didn’t exactly seem to be getting with the letting go program. “Are we just supposed to ignore that our brother and sister are dead because of the criminal thug Mom chose to marry?”
“And what about Lorna? I thought you were convinced…”
“I’m still convinced,” Jamie said firmly. “But, I am also convinced that Mom had nothing to do with Carl kidnapping either Lorna or the twins.”
“How come?” Matt wanted to know.
“She swore to me, Matt. She swore to me on my life and yours and Amanda’s, and on Mac and Grandma’s souls, that she had nothing to do with it.”
“Wow,” Amanda drawled. “Really pulling out the big guns, here.”
“She’s in so much pain, guys. We really need to step up, support her.”
“We warned her,” Amanda said. “Matt and I both tried to warn her about what she was getting into with Carl. And all it got us was her cutting us both out. She’ll never admit we were right.”
“Then maybe it’s time to stop trying to make her,” Jamie suggested. “What does it matter now, anyway? Carl finally showed his true colors, and Mom’s going to have to face that, sooner or later. But, not now. Now she needs us to rally around her and help her get through this. Just like she’s going to need us again once the real truth finally comes out.”
“Any news on Lorna?” Matt wondered.
Jamie shook his head sadly. “Frankie and Cass had a lead to follow in Europe, but then the mess with Charlie came up…”
“She tried to kill my daughter,” Amanda reminded. Their family had more than one drama going on. So what else was new?
“Well, the point is, Cass and Frankie are out for the foreseeable future. And your guys from Brava haven’t turned up anything, have they?”
“No,” Amanda admitted.
“So let’s just focus on Mom for now. Let’s make it clear how much we love her, and how we’re here for her, no matter what.”
“But don’t you think that’ll only make things worse? Think of how much of a shock it’s going to be for Mom once Carl finally crawls out from whatever hole he’s been hiding in. What good will it do for us to entertain her fantasy?”
“She needs the fantasy,” Jamie sighed. “She needs to believe that she married a good man, who was taken away from her by forces beyond his control. The same thing goes for Elizabeth and Cory. We need to help Mom mourn them in peace. Before everything explodes again.”
“Mrs. Wheeler,” Chase greeted Iris at his home. “I thought you’d be halfway around the globe by now.”
“There’s been a change of plans.”
His eyes narrowed. “How so?”
“My granddaughter gave birth earlier.”
“Thank you. It’s a girl. An absolutely enchanting child. No surprise there.”
“How nice. Perhaps at some point down the line we can set up a play-date with my enchanting children,” Chase offered lightly, waiting for her to get to the point.
“As a result, I fear I won’t be able to… travel, as we discussed. My granddaughter needs me.”
Chase’s amiable smile failed to reach his eyes. “I have a hard time visualizing you changing diapers, Mrs. Wheeler.”
“There are other ways to be of help with a newborn, Mr. Hamilton.”
“Middle of the night feedings don’t quite seem to be your speed, either.”
“In any case,” she bristled. “I am unfortunately unavailable for the foreseeable future.”
“What’s really going on, Iris?” Chase demanded. “A few days ago, you were gung-ho to go after Carl with every barrel blazing. What changed your mind?”
“My great-grand – “
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”
“Did he get to you?”
“Oh. Carl,” Iris let out a small sigh of relief. “No. No, of course not.”
“Then what precisely changed your mind?”
“That’s none of your business,” Iris decided the conversation was over.
A shame Chase didn’t agree. “I warned you not to double-cross me.”
“And I warned you to address me with respect,” she fired back.
“I don’t appreciate being toyed with.”
“And I don’t appreciate being threatened.”
“We had a deal.”
“My circumstances have changed.”
Now, finally, Chase actually did smile sincerely. “We’ll see about that.”
“Marley,” Dennis caught up to her sitting on a bench outside of Bay City University Hospital, just staring out into space seemingly.
“Dennis.” She moved over to make room for him. “Did you see her? Did you see your granddaughter?”
“Yeah…” He didn’t seem certain of how to react. “I… that was… something, that’s for sure. My granddaughter. I’m a grandfather. Wow. Hard to think of myself like that, you know?”
Marley nodded thoughtfully. “I do know. You spend your whole life viewing yourself and the world in a certain way and then, one day, something – it doesn’t even have to be something big; it can be tiny, barely noticeable, really – but it changes everything. Not just you, but your whole perspective, your whole way of looking at things.”
Dennis said, “My Grandpa Mac. I thought he was so old. I guess he was about my age when I was born.” Dennis remembered, “Listen, Marley, thanks so much for letting me know about Sarah’s baby. If it had stayed up to her, who knows how long I’d have been left out of the loop this time?”
“You deserved to know.”
“Did you…” Dennis ventured carefully. “Did you hear about it from Grant?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
“Me, too,” she agreed.
“What are you… What happens next?”
Marley smiled. “It’s funny. Sarah’s whole pregnancy, the baby, her baby, it didn’t feel real. Pregnant was just a word. It meant that my husband had cheated on me with a girl young enough to be both of ours daughter. A girl that I took into my home and treated as a friend. A girl I once thought….” She shook her head. “I could say out loud that Sarah was going to have a baby. But that baby, it wasn’t a person, it was an idea. Now that she’s here… It’s like you said, it’s all different. Sarah’s baby is forcing me to take a good, long look at myself, at my marriage, at what I want out of life.”
Dennis repeated, “I’m sorry, Marley. I’m sorry that you’re hurting like this, I’d do anything to…. But, truth is, I’m not sorry that you’re finally facing the truth. I’ve been urging you to do that since I got back into town.”
“The truth,” she said. “About Sarah. About Grant.”
“I know the whole truth now.”
“I’m not,” Marley told him honestly. “I was happy there, living in my bubble. They say the truth hurts. Whoever they may be. They’re not kidding.”
“Only for a little while. But, it’s for the best in the long run, you have to know that. Now that you’re finally facing the situation for what it is, you can start making choices that are right for you, instead of for someone else.”
She attempted a laugh. It came out more as a whimper. “That’s never exactly been my strong suit. Taking care of myself.”
“Then let me help you,” he suggested. “I want to help you.”
“Do you? Do you, really?”
“I owe you,” he reminded. “I owe you a hell of a lot.”
“Okay,” Marley nodded slowly. “Good. I’m glad. Because my eyes are finally, fully open. I know exactly what I need to do from now on.”
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