Rachel waited until after Felicia had stormed out of the Cory Mansion before allowing herself to succumb to the violent shaking Rachel had been holding back ever since her friend had torn into Rachel, insinuating – no, flat out stating – that Rachel cared more about protecting Carl’s memory than about reuniting Lorna with her family.
It was that last barb of Felicia’s that made Rachel realize she’d been right all along. There really was no one she could trust when it came to confiding about the phone call that came in earlier. The one that may or may not have been from Cory. The one that may or may not have mentioned Lorna.
Chase had gotten to them. All of them. He’d managed to turn Jamie and Felicia and anyone else who mattered against Rachel. He’d convinced them that Rachel was the one standing in the way of Lorna coming home. That Rachel was the enemy.
Couldn’t they understand? Couldn’t they see? It was exactly the opposite.
Chase was the villain. He’d set Carl up and hounded him and forced him to confess to crimes that were, at worst, minor, at best, ancient history. And still Chase wouldn’t let up. He’d driven Carl out of town, forced him to take Cory and Elizabeth along or risk losing his children altogether. And he’d driven the three of them to their deaths.
Now, Chase was trying to shift the guilt off of himself by continuing to prosecute Carl. By making it seem as if he were the scoundrel he’d always been. That not only had Carl snatched Elizabeth and Cory on his way out of Bay City, but Lorna, as well. And now they were all out there somewhere. The plane crash another lie.
He’d convinced Rachel’s son and her best friend to accept his version of events. They were taking his side, agreeing to dance to his tune by pressing kidnapping charges against Carl. Chase didn’t give a damn about Lorna. All he cared about was humiliating the Hutchins family.
Rachel had been right to keep her secret. She could only imagine what would have happened if she’d gone to the police about the phone call. The I Told You So’s she’d have been forced to endure.
If Carl was alive, then it was up to Rachel to find him – no one else. Because no one else loved him the way she did. No one else would give him the benefit of the doubt. No one else would allow him to explain himself.
The world was sitting in wait, ready to condemn Carl the moment he showed his face again.
Rachel refused to allow that to happen. She’d rescued Carl Hutchins from himself once before and forced the world to accept him through her own sheer will. She knew she could do it again.
If only she were given the chance.
“How did the visit with Daisy go?” Dennis asked hesitatingly, dropping in on Marley at the art gallery after hours.
“It was good.” She bobbed her head up and down to make sure he believed her. “She’s a beautiful little girl, your granddaughter. Sweet natured, too. The only time she really cried was when she was hungry, and once I got her more food, everything was fine again. It really wasn’t Sarah’s fault, though I know she blames herself. “
Dennis frowned. “What wasn’t Sarah’s fault?”
“Oh, that she hadn’t packed enough milk for Daisy, or that she’d been too afraid to give her a bath up to that point. Grant and I took care of it, so no harm done.”
“You and Grant….”
“Yes.” Marley stood up as straight as she could. “Grant and I.”
“Is it worth it?” Dennis wondered.
“Is what worth it?”
“Your marriage. Grant. Staying with him just because it gives you access to Daisy.”
“That’s not the only reason,” Marley reminded.
“Right,” Dennis snorted. “You figure you owe him one. He stood by you, so you’re standing by him.”
“He’s the only man who ever has,” Marley rewrote a bit of history.
“I’m sorry,” Dennis said. “I’m sorry you’ve had it so rough.”
“Thank you,” she was surprised by his understanding.
“I’m sorry that all the jerks who’ve hurt you in the past – me included – have messed up your judgment so much that you think a guy like Grant loves you, when it’s obvious – “
“Grant does love me. And I love him.”
“I don’t believe you,” Dennis said.
“I don’t care.” She tried to turn away. Except, in that moment, Dennis caught Marley by the wrist and held her tightly, forcing her to look at him.
“Maybe Grant makes you feel sheltered,” Dennis parsed. “But, that’s not love. I believe that he makes you feel protected. But, can he make you feel like this?”
Dennis kissed her then, but without any of the self-effacing hesitation or remorse that had come before. This time, Dennis kissed Marley the way he knew she liked to be kissed. And he was making no apology for it.
His tongue was in her mouth, sweeping boldly from side to side as his hands first cupped her face, then crept down over Marley’s shoulders and arms. Moving on, lips caressed her throat as his fingers settled on her hips.
But, Dennis wasn’t done yet. Before Marley could even catch her breath, he’d sunk to his knees in front of her, hiking up Marley’s skirt and burying his face between her legs, zeroing in so precisely that Marley barely had a chance to gasp, “No, don’t…” in the most unconvincing protest since Willie Wonka, before changing the edict to, “Don’t… stop… Please. Don’t… stop….”
He knew her. Ever after all these years, he still knew precisely what she needed, where and how much and for how long. Marley’s hands opened and closed impotently as she attempted to hold on to the smooth wall behind her in order to remain upright, her whole body shaking and shuddering against it as she felt the abstract painting above her head vibrating along.
Dennis’ palms pressed deeper against her hips, keeping Marley up even when her legs no longer could and stopping her from falling too fast when, with a keen and an abrupt jerk, she first froze, then slid slowly down the wall until she was sitting on the ground, dazed and at eye-level with Dennis.
He smiled at her, reaching over to tuck the strands of hair that had come loose while she flailed in abandon off of Marley face and back behind her ear.
“Does Grant make you feel like that?” Dennis followed up politely.
And all Marley could do was slowly shake her head, before bursting into tears.
“Did you see your dad?” Steven asked Jen when she walked into the BCU computer lab after having visited Kevin in prison.
“I saw him.”
“You know, I could have come with you.” He indicated his lap-top. “I’ve got nothing important going on here.”
“Aren’t you presenting the first draft of your dissertation next week?”
“Like I said – nothing important.”
She smiled weakly, understanding fully what he’d been offering, but still turning Steven down. “It’s nice of you to offer but… no. I don’t want you coming with me. Same way I didn’t want you coming to the sentencing. This is my problem, not yours.”
He sat down next to her, tapping his hands nervously against his knees. “When I was a kid and I’d get upset about something. Which didn’t happen often, but…. Usually it was remembering my mom or Jake… It would just come over me, all of a sudden, you know? I’d be doing something, and then I’d remember and…”
“Yeah,” Jen said. “It’s like that with me and my mom, too. And my grandmother. You think you’re over it. Until you’re not.”
“So, yeah, whenever that happened, I’d do what my dad would call my Lassie in the Mud impression. Guess there was this episode of Lassie once, where she got bit by a snake, and so she crawled off into the woods and buried herself in mud and waited for the poison to pass. She didn’t want anybody near her while she was in pain. Dad said that was me, too. I told him, sure, whatever, call it whatever you want, but this was my problem, not his. Dad said that he loved me, so my problems were his problems. I didn’t get that, you know? I thought it was just something you’re supposed to say to your kids. I didn’t think he really meant it. Except now… with you…. I – I finally get it.”
“Only this time, I’m Lassie?”
“I’m not big on metaphors,” Steven reminded.
“It kills me,” she said. “Seeing my dad like that. He put on a happy face, told me everything was fine. He even asked about you.”
Steven’s head bobbed up. “What about me?”
She shrugged. “Just how the two of us were doing. He said he didn’t want what happened with him to mess up stuff for us.”
Steven swallowed hard. “How would it do that?”
“He knows me, I guess. He knows how I get, how I push people away when I’m upset.”
“Oh. That. You mean other people don’t do that?”
“Normal people don’t.” Jen ventured. “Or so I’d been lead to believe.”
“Well, I wouldn’t know anything about them,” he offered the response as a joke, but a cautious one, since Steven remembered exactly how Jen felt about being lumped in with the abnormal. It was the reason she’d stayed away from Steven for so long. Because she knew that, with him, there was no chance of keeping up her façade of being just like everybody else.
Jen looked at Steven and smiled seemingly for the first time since they’d gotten the news about Kevin. She said, “I wouldn’t, either,” and leaned in to kiss him.
“Hey, Charlie.” Kirkland stood in the doorway to her hospital room, Frankie having called and told him her daughter was awake, and that she would love to see him.
Charlie glanced up, studying Kirkland coldly, making the smile on his own face falter in confusion.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded.
“I – I came to see you.”
“Wanted to make sure you were okay,” Kirkland approached her cautiously, ready to spring back at the slightest rejection.
“You know I’m not.”
“What – What do you mean? Frankie said – “
“She told you, didn’t she? She told you I was nuts?”
“No!” He was by her bedside now, looking more confused than ever. “She said you’d finally woken up. That’s great news.”
“I woke up because they gave me the same drugs they give crazy people. Like my dad.”
Kirkland wondered if it might not be best for him to walk out and come back in again. Maybe then their conversation would make more sense. “Your dad’s not crazy.”
“Sure, as long as he takes his drugs, he’s great. Well, unless he decides to kill somebody. Stand back, Kirk, you could be next!”
“If the medication they gave you helped you get better – “
“You’re the one who snitched on me, aren’t you?” Charlie accused. “Mom said you told her I’d been acting weird lately.”
“Charlie… When I found you in the woods, you were just sitting there. In the snow. You acted like you didn’t know who I was.”
“So you ran straight to my mom and dad and told them I belonged in the loony bin.”
At this point, Kirkland had taken about as much abuse as he was in the mood for. Instead of shrinking back, he challenged Charlie, “I told your parents that I thought you needed help. And they got it for you. And now you’re better. If you’re waiting for an apology, it’s going to be a long wait.”
“And if you think that things are just going to go back to the way they were between us before, you’ve got another thing coming, too.”
“I don’t want them to be the way they were before. I want them to be better.”
“Lots of luck with that!”
“I love you, Charlie.”
“You just love getting laid.”
He ignored her last insult to say, “I know how hard this is. Feeling… out of control. I watched my aunt Marley. And my grandmother, too.”
“Your grandmother got somebody killed. And Marley almost did.”
“They were sick. But, they got better. You will, too.”
“Would you stop it!” Charlie shrieked. “Would you shut up and stop being so nice to me? I can’t stand it, okay? I could never stand it. No matter how rotten I was to you, you kept coming back for more. I get it. You’re a better person than me. You can quit proving it. You win. You’re a saint and I’m a bitch. Now would you go away and leave me the hell alone!”
“I’m a popular guy, today,” Kevin observed upon Chase walking into the Springfield Jail’s visiting area. “My daughter was here earlier. You know, I could see how bad she felt about this whole thing, but all I could think of was: Thank God she’s alive to feel it.”
Chase pulled up a chair, studying Kevin with great interest over the table between them. “I swear, you are the happiest prisoner I have ever seen.”
“And you, unlike most, do have a solid frame of reference to draw from.”
“No wonder Lila is suspicious.”
“Lila?” Kevin cocked an eyebrow. “You’re here because of Lila?”
“I owe her a favor. She chose to blow it on you.”
“And here I thought she was smarter than that.”
“It’s alright. If I live to be one hundred, I won’t be able to repay Lila everything I owe her. So she’s still got some credits coming her way.”
“What exactly did Lila want you to do where I’m concerned?”
“Find out what’s really going on.”
“She can read the official court proceedings. Summarizes everything pretty nicely.”
“She doesn’t buy it.”
“The court did.”
“Well, like you said, she’s smarter than that.”
“What does Lila think is going on?”
“She thinks you’re lying. She doesn’t know about what or why. She just thinks you are.”
Kevin hesitated, and then he leaned forward almost conspiratorially. “You know what it’s like. Being an adoptive parent. You love your kid to Hell and back and everything in between. But always there’s this nagging feeling that asks: Am I doing right by them?”
Chase crossed his arms against his chest defensively. “Don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Kevin chuckled. “Your kids have two dads.”
“And it never once crossed your mind to wonder whether that’s good for them? Whether they might have been better off with someone else? A more… conventional family?”
“Doug and I love them. That’s all that matters.”
“And I love Jenny. Except that, a couple of years ago, I got to sit and listen to her telling an entire courtroom about how hard it was for her growing up with a white father. I had no idea. I thought everything was hunky-dory. But now I wonder if she wouldn’t have been happier with a Black family. One where she had a mother and a father, instead of just me. What the hell gave me the idea I could raise a little girl alone? Especially a little girl like Jenny?”
“I had a mother and a father,” Chase said, apropos to nothing. “Same race as me. Both straight – as far as I know. My dad gambled all our money away until we were literally living on the streets, while my mother once broke my leg with a baseball bat so I’d get checked into the public hospital and she could come steal the food off my tray, not to mention the aspirin, the blankets, the towels, the clock, and anything else that wasn’t nailed down. Yup, one’s biological family is always superior.”
“I owed her,” Kevin said simply. “I owed my daughter a happy life. That was our implicit contact, and I’ve let her down in the past. Now maybe Lila can’t understand how that ended me up here. But, I’m willing to bet you do.”
“I know what you’re up to,” Jamie told Olivia after the girls had been put to bed and she was helping him pick up the toys they’d scattered across the living room over the course of the day. It felt like every stuffed animal in Devon’s toy box had been brought out to dance a solo, not to mention change outfits several times.
“What do you mean?” Olivia turned around, still clutching a brown bear in a pink tutu.
“I know I’m not the sharpest tool in the drawer, but I still recognize a woman flirting when I see it.”
“Flirting?” Olivia repeated, not sure whether to go with innocent surprise or meaningful innuendo.
“It can’t be me you’re interested in,” Jamie said quite reasonably.
“What are you talking about? You’re a good looking guy….”
“Thank you. I’m also a married guy. My wife is missing. But she’s going to come home one day. And I intend to be here, waiting for her.”
“That’s very sweet,” Olivia told him sincerely. “Romantic, too.”
“Yes, well, I may have also heard the word pathetic bandied about. That’s not the point, though. I’m not available, and you’re definitely smart enough to realize that.”
“I didn’t mean to offend you, Jamie.”
“You haven’t offended me. You’re a beautiful woman, and having you flirt with me is a hell of a compliment. Even if I realize it’s a misdirection.”
“Okay, now you’ve lost me.”
“You’re flirting with me, Olivia, but not because you’re interested in me. You’re doing it because you want to make someone else jealous. And I have a pretty good idea of who that someone else is.”
“Marley doesn’t have a leg to stand on!” Iris raged to Dennis.
Who, in light of how he’d spent the afternoon, was forced to do a double-take and try to figure out what his mother really meant, before he said something very unfortunate.
He settled on, “When did you last see Marley, Mom?”
“I didn’t. I didn’t need to. I got an earful from Sarah. That conniving little bitch is trying to steal our baby!”
“Sarah’s baby. Your granddaughter, my great-granddaughter. Marley is attempting to make Sarah feel inadequate as a mother so that Marley and Grant can swoop in and steal our child out from underneath our noses.”
“Marley would never do that to Sarah. She’s a good person.”
“Why not? She tried to do that with Sarah? Or have you forgotten?”
“Olivia was perfectly willing to give Sarah up. Marley merely volunteered to adopt her. And when it didn’t happen, she moved on.”
“I say she was merely biding her time, waiting – “
“For that baby to grow up and have an affair with Marley’s husband? Sorry, Mom, I don’t think so.”
“I’m sure in Marley’s mad mind it’s all perfectly rational. She is Donna’s daughter, after all. That whole family is utterly demented.” Iris dismissed her son’s denials with a wave of the hand in order to move onto the true point of their discussion. “I need you to do something for me, Dennis.”
She hesitated, realizing how absurd she was about to sound and hoping Dennis would at least allow her to explain. “I need you to seduce Marley.”
“Excuse me?” The words came along with a choked laugh of disbelief. For a multitude of reason.
“Oh, please, darling, it isn’t as if you haven’t done it before. And for far, far less noble reasons and personages, may I remind you.”
“I’m sorry, Mom,” he was still laughing. “But is there a problem on this Earth that you don’t believe a well-timed seduction couldn’t solve?”
“You’d be surprised,” she told him dryly.
“And why would I be doing this, exactly?” He couldn’t wait to hear the answer.
“Because if Marley is smitten with you, she’ll leave Grant. Which means she won’t have anymore access to our Daisy.”
“You really have a high opinion of my abilities, don’t you? I find the fact that you’ve given it ample thought a little… creepy.”
“Oh, do grow up, Dennis. History indicates you’re more than up for the task.”
“Don’t be crude, dear.”
“I’d love to be of service,” he told her slowly, the consequences shaping up in his brain even as Dennis said them – to tell the truth, it was the first time that thought was crossing his mind, as well. “But, see, I don’t think you’ve considered all the implications, here.”
“How do you mean?”
“If Marley walks out on Grant – sure, let’s say, for me, but honestly it could for any reason. If Marley walks out on Grant, that leaves him free to reunite with Sarah. And is that really what we want?”
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