“There she is!” Marley flung open the door to her and Grant’s home and welcomed Daisy, currently rocking in a car-seat held by Sarah, the latter of whom looked like she might turn and bolt at any second.
“Hi,” Sarah said timidly.
“Come in, come in.” Marley all but wrenched the car-seat out of Sarah’s hands. Then, when the younger woman refused to let go, settled for simply leading them to where she could put it down on the coffee-table. Marley sat down on the couch across from the baby, unstrapping Daisy and starting to take off her jacket. “Are you sure she was warm enough in this?” Marley looked up at Sarah. “They’re predicting another round of snow this afternoon.”
“She’s fine,” Sarah said. “We were in the car most of the time.”
“Well, I might want to take her out later.”
“In what?” Sarah asked. “Her stroller is at home.”
“Oh, I bought one of my own.”
“I can’t ask you to lug Daisy’s gear back and forth from your apartment every time she visits. It makes much more sense to have two of everything, don’t you think?”
“Where’s Grant?” Sarah looked around, biting her lip. “I brought her to see Grant.”
“He’s upstairs, finishing getting Daisy’s room ready.”
“You set up a room for her?”
“Of course. In my old office, you remember, it’s right next to the Master Bedroom.”
“I – I didn’t think you’d give up your office.”
“Well, what choice did we have? I have a place to go at the gallery; Grant works from home. I was the logical person to give up a room.”
“Marley has given up a great deal.” Descending the stairs, Grant caught the tail end of their conversation and added his own two cents.
“I know that,” Sarah gulped.
“Just one more second.” Marley rose. “I have one more thing I need to do before I show you Daisy’s new room. I’ll call you when it’s ready.” And she flew up the stairs Grant had just come down.
Both of Daisy’s parents watched her go, neither sure, under the circumstances, what to say.
Finally, Sarah offered, “I brought a couple of bottles, in case she gets hungry. They’re in the diaper bag.”
“And also diapers and things.”
“Marley took care of all that,” Grant reassured. “I meant what I said. She is going above and beyond – “
“Yeah, she’s a saint, I get it,” Sarah snapped, sleep deprivation – and general frustration – getting to her in a way no middle of the night feeding could have.
“She didn’t have to do any of this,” Grant reminded sharply. “She could have said To Hell with us both.”
“No. She couldn’t have. She loves you,” Sarah said simply, speaking from experience.
“And I’m very grateful for that. Marley has made it possible for me to have my wife and my daughter. I never dreamed there might be a way to make that happen.”
“You said you didn’t want her. Daisy. You said – “
“I know what I said. I had my reasons.” Grant swallowed hard. “I said it because of Marley. Because I didn’t want to hurt her. But, she insisted. She wants this for me. Can you believe it?”
“Not really,” Sarah said.
“What’s that?” After spending days upon days in her daughter’s hospital room, Frankie could recognize a new piece of equipment from the doorway. As soon as she entered, she saw the new IV hanging from a pole and dripping into Charlie’s arm.
“It’s lithium,” Cass said calmly. “John started her on a course last night.”
“I didn’t authorize it.”
“Damn it, Cass! We talked about this. We agreed.”
“We didn’t. You spoke your piece, I spoke mine.”
“And then you went to John and – “
“Charlie isn’t a minor. John didn’t need our permission.”
“He wanted it.”
“So I gave it to him.”
“How could you?”
“She’s suffering, Frankie. And she’s pulling away from us, more and more each day. We had to do something.”
Frankie looked helplessly at the poison being poured into her daughter’s veins. “And you’re willing to live with the consequences?”
“More than I’m willing to live with the consequences of losing her.”
“We could still lose her. She could change, turn into a completely different person. It’s been known to happen. It’s why Gregory refused treatment. Because he knew the drugs were so powerful, they might turn him into someone else. They would have saved the physical body, but lost Gregory in the process.”
“Gregory’s case was different.”
“I know,” Frankie whispered. “I watched what Sharlene went through. I couldn’t imagine…”
“You don’t have to.” Cass pulled his wife into his arms. “Gregory was terminal. Charlie is not. If this is Bipolar Disorder, she needs help, treatment. But, she can still live a full life. Look at me. Charlie can grow up and fall in love and get married and have a family. It’s all still possible. But she needs to get better first.”
“I’m so scared,” Frankie pressed her forehead against Cass’ chest, unable to look him in the eye. “I should know what to do. I should know how to fix this. I’m her mother.”
“And I’m her father. And we’ll both get her through this. She won’t be left alone. Not again. Never again.”
“Hi…” Matt’s voice trailed off as, instead of Jamie answering his own front door, it proved to be Olivia, instead.
“Hi!” she told him brightly.
“What – what are you doing here?”
“Oh, just leading a little impromptu dance class.” Olivia stepped aside so that Matt could see Devon, dressed in the new ballet dress Jamie had bought her, twirling happily to a Tchaikovsky CD Olivia had brought, while Jamie sat on the couch, Mackenzie on his lap, clapping dutifully when directed. Which was pretty much after every turn.
“You’re giving private dance lessons now?”
“More like saving a life.” Jamie pivoted his head and beckoned Matt to come all the way in. “Olivia helped me keep Devon from a complete meltdown in the middle of a kids’ clothing store the other day, and then somehow she got roped into… this.”
“It’s my pleasure,” Olivia corrected. “To be honest, I needed an excuse to get back to dancing myself. I’ve been horribly lax since moving back to Bay City.”
“I doubt that humoring a not-quite two year old gives you much of a work-out,” Jamie smiled. “But I am still ridiculously grateful.”
“It’s alright,” Olivia cocked her head Jamie’s way. “The job comes with other fringe benefits.”
“I came to see Kirkland,” Matt blurted out, not sure why, only pretty certain that the last thing he needed was to continue watching this mutual admiration society. “To thank him for helping out with Jasmine.”
“Jasmine?” Jamie asked in surprise.
“He didn’t tell you?”
“Nothing about Jasmine, no.”
Matt sighed, “My fourteen year old daughter thought it would be fun to hang out at an 18 and over club on the BCU campus. That served alcohol. Luckily, Kirkland got her out in time. She was apparently talking to some upperclassman who was offering her a beer.”
“Aw, hell, is she okay?”
“Thanks to Kirkland. Though it looks like he didn’t say a word about it to anyone about his swooping in to save the day.”
“Well, my son isn’t a snitch. Which isn’t always a good thing.” Jamie handed Mackenzie to her Uncle Matt, who accepted the infant awkwardly. “He’s in the gym downstairs. I’ll go get him; you can thank him in person. Be right back.”
“Jamie raised a good kid,” Olivia observed, watching him go.
“Yeah, he’s a great dad, I’ll give him that.”
“Makes me wonder what might have been, you know? With Sarah?”
“You mean him, Marley and Sarah?”
“Well, yes, what else could I have possibly meant?” Olivia stared at Matt curiously.
“I…” Matt indicated where Olivia currently was and with whom. “Olivia, are you… are you… interested in Jamie?”
“What do you think?” Graciously allowing Sarah to carry Daisy up the stairs, Grant bringing up the rear, Marley proudly displayed the new nursery.
“It’s… beautiful,” Sarah admitted.
She didn’t know how Marley did it but, in the space of a few days, she’d managed to transform what had once been an adult’s office into the perfect little girl’s room, the walls painted in a pattern of delicate daisy chains, the furniture, the chairs, even the lamps, all in yellow and white. There were flowery sheets on her crib, several teething rings in the shapes of daisies and even a music box that played Bicycle Built for Two… otherwise known as Daisy Bell.
“You kind of made it easy to come up with a theme,” Marley complimented Sarah.
“Marley really worked hard to have this all ready in time for Daisy’s visit,” Grant said.
“I’m sure her room at your house is equally as nice,” Marley said.
“Well… actually, I haven’t had a lot of time yet…”
“Of course not,” Marley patted Sarah on the shoulder, managing to slip Daisy from her at the same time. “And who can blame you? You must be dead on your feet, taking care of a baby all by yourself. Have you gotten any sleep at all this week?”
“Some,” Sarah said. “She really is very good. And I don’t mind. I – I like being with her.”
“Of course, you do. But, you deserve a break. Listen, Sarah,” Marley said. “I don’t think I’ve told you yet – and if I have, I certainly haven’t told you enough – but, it’s so wonderful what you’re doing.”
“What? What am I doing?”
“Why, letting Grant be a part of his daughter’s life, of course.”
“Well, you came and you said – “
“So many women in your position would have been petty or spiteful. Or they might have felt threatened. But, not you. You’re doing what’s best for Daisy. I am so, so proud of you.”
“You’re doing the right thing,” Grant chimed in. “And we both really appreciate it.”
“Is everything going well?” Marley wondered. “Any trouble with the feeding or – “
“No. It’s fine. I have a lot of milk. I even expressed some bottles so you have them for her, just in case.”
“What about a bath? Have you given her a bath yet?”
“The doctor said to wait until after the umbilical cord stump has fallen off.”
“Oh, it’s nothing to be afraid of. Though I can imagine how nervous you must be to try and wash her all alone. Why, if something happened, if you slipped or turned away for just a moment – “
“I would never do that. I know you can’t leave a baby alone in the bathtub.”
“Still, I found it’s good to have a second pair of hands around,” Marley dismissed.
“Thank you, Sarah,” Grant told her sincerely, looking Sarah in the eye for the first time since they’d both come in. “Thank you for bringing Daisy to me.”
“I could stay,” she said. “For a little bit. Tell you all the stuff she likes and…”
“Oh, no, nothing doing,” Marley marched Sarah to the front door and into her coat. “You look exhausted. What you need to do is go home and take a nice, long, well-deserved rest. There is nothing to feel guilty about. You’re not abandoning your daughter or your responsibilities. Daisy is in good hands. And you deserve the break. Go on, Sarah. Go.”
“Good afternoon, Ms. Gallant.”
“May I come in?”
“It’s about your daughter,” Chase said.
Felicia let him in.
“You’ve found Lorna?” Felicia’s breath caught in her throat.
“Then how dare you use any mention of her to worm your way in – “
“You can help bring your daughter home,” Chase cut Felicia off, in no mood for an over-dramatic tirade. “By filing kidnapping charges against Carl Hutchins.”
“What good would that do?”
“It would allow the District Attorney’s office to open an investigation and pursue leads that are currently beyond their jurisdiction.”
“Why didn’t Jamie want to do it, then?” Felicia Gallant was a lot of things, but stupid wasn’t one of them.
He cocked a bemused eyebrow. “How did you know Jamie turned me down?”
“You wouldn’t be here otherwise. I’m Lorna’s mother, he’s her husband. He’s the logical person to turn to.”
“So why didn’t Jamie buy what you’re selling?”
“Rachel,” Chase said.
“Jamie is afraid that his mother would take his filing charges against her husband as a personal attack.”
“Oh, that she most certainly would.”
“Which is why I came to you.”
“Rachel Hutchins happens to be one of my dearest friends in the world.”
“I realize that. But, is enabling Rachel’s delusions about her husband’s pristine nature more important to you than the fate of your daughter?”
“Why is she crying?” A nearly panicked Grant asked Marley when his walking the floor with the baby failed to calm Daisy down.
“She’s probably still hungry,” Marley said.
“Sarah brought bottles…”
“I know. I fed her both of them, but I guess it wasn’t enough.”
“Sarah said it should be.”
Marley sighed. “Sarah has only been a mother for a few days. You can hardly expect her to know everything. Besides, babies are very unpredictable. One growth spurt, and the whole schedule goes out the window.”
Grant asked, “Should we call Sarah? Ask her to come over right away?”
“No, no. We’re supposed to have Daisy for the afternoon, why would you want to cut that short? Listen, I was afraid something like this would happen. I made up a couple of bottles of formula just in case. They’re in the fridge downstairs.”
Grant hesitated. “Sarah said she didn’t want Daisy having formula. Only breast-milk.”
“Well, I’m sure she didn’t want her crying from hunger, either. Oh, come on, it won’t do any harm. Take Daisy, get the bottle and give it to her. You know you want to feed your daughter.”
“I do, but…”
“Then go. It’s in the kitchen. I’ll be right down, help you warm it up.”
“Thank you, Marley,” Grant said.
She kissed him and smiled.
Marley waited until Grant and Daisy had left the room. Then, making sure he wasn’t coming back, she moved to the diaper bag, removing the two bottles Sarah had packed there.
Treading softly, aware that Grant could hear her every step underneath, Marley crossed to the bathroom adjacent Daisy’s nursery. And poured the contents of both bottles down the drain.
The phone number read as blocked.
Rachel wasn’t even going to answer it at first.
But something about receiving an out of the blue call on her private cell, some feeling that this was important, critical even…. She clicked the button and said, “Hello?”
“Mom?” She could barely hear through the static. And yet Rachel was sure she’d heard it, just the same. “Mom?”
In Cory’s voice.
“Cory?” In her head, Rachel was screaming, but the words spoken out loud were barely audible. “Cory? Honey? Cory, is that you?”
More static. She felt like the dreadful noise was pointed barbed wire tearing at her skin and keeping her from reaching her child. He was alive. Cory was alive. That meant Elizabeth and Carl were…. They had to be.
He was still talking on the other end, quickly and frantically and desperately. But, Rachel could only make out random, disjointed sounds.
And a word that may… or may not… have been, “Lorna.”
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