“Hi,” Olivia was still debating the wisdom of her spontaneous visit, yet forcing herself to follow through nonetheless, even as Lorna opened the door to her and Jamie’s home.
“Hello,” Jamie’s wife greeted Olivia coolly, if not exactly antagonistically.
“I’m… Olivia Matthews.”
Lorna nodded. “You were with Jamie at Steven’s wedding.”
“Right. And, I mean, we’ve met before. Sam Fowler and I…”
“Sam Fowler?” Lorna did her best to appear oblivious.
Olivia rolled her eyes. “You can drop the act. I know you’ve got your memory back. Marley told me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Lorna said.
“Okay, fine, we’ll play it your way.” Olivia said, “I came to see Devon and Zee. Jamie asked me to.”
“Oh,” Lorna stepped aside and allowed Olivia to come in.
Which she did, somewhat cautiously. “You don’t mind me being here?”
“I’m sure they’ll be happy to see you. They’ve missed you. They’re upstairs, I’ll go get them.”
“No, wait.” Olivia held out her hand, grabbing Lorna by the elbow to physically stop her. “I wanted to talk to you first.”
Lorna crossed her arms, automatically on the defensive. “What about?”
Olivia sensed a definite chill in the air. Which only made her own anger run hotter. “Jamie,” she said. “What else? You do know that he and I…”
“Jamie told me.”
“I doubt he told you everything.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Lorna dismissed, somehow managing to piss Olivia off even more than she already had been.
“You mean, I don’t matter?”
“That’s not what I said.”
“It’s what you meant.”
Lorna shrugged. “My relationship with Jamie has nothing to do with you. Just like his relationship with you, had nothing to do with me.”
Olivia snorted. “As if. You’re all Jamie could talk about for three, long, damn years. It’s like you were a ghost haunting the premises. Although, wouldn’t you know it – of all the rotten luck – you didn’t even have the courtesy to be dead.”
“Sorry to disappoint you.”
“Ditto,” Olivia said.
“You said Jamie told you all about me? Did he tell you that I was pregnant? And that he’s the father?”
“What is the meaning of this?” Donna raged, losing her charming smile and ingratiating air to thrust the coroner’s report she’d been given against the larcenous lab tech’s chest.
“You get what you pay for,” he shrugged, the quintessentially American expression sounding most odd with his cultured, Swiss accent.
Matt reclaimed the report, leafed through it and pronounced, “This report claims the doctor died of natural causes!”
“How can that be?” Donna sputtered.
“Heart stopped,” the tech translated helpfully.
“But, that could be due to a myriad of reasons. “Poison or violence or – “
“You don’t understand,” Donna was back to cajoling. “We need proof that the doctor was murdered. Preferably by an agent of Iris Wheeler’s or Carl Hutchins’.”
“Then you need a different report,” he deadpanned.
“Do you have one?” Donna asked eagerly.
“Donna…” Matt reeled his wife back in. “We can’t…”
“I can,” the tech offered. “For a price.”
“How much?” Donna asked.
“No,” Matt said. He reminded, “We’re here to find out the truth, not make it up to suit our own purposes. That’s Carl’s way, not ours.”
“What is it they say about fighting fire with fire?”
“Take care you don’t burn the house down.”
“Oh, Matthew, I am merely attempting to – “
“No,” Matt repeated.
Donna sighed in frustration. “Fine.” She threw her hands up in the air. “Well, this has proven to be a most pointless, costly excursion. I swear, we should have just stayed in bed.”
“Listen to the lady,” the lab tech advised Matt. Then added, “Funny, so many people interested in a man who died of natural causes.”
“What do you mean?” Donna cleverly picked up on the clue he’d all but dropped in her lap.
“You are not the first to come asking about him.”
“We’re not? Can you tell us who else was here?”
The lab tech smiled and magnanimously offered, “For a price….”
“What are you doing here?” Rachel indicated the entrance to the Bay City Museum of Modern Art. “Have you come to investigate Carl’s contribution to the endowment fund, searching for sinister improprieties?”
Eduardo offered her the most agreeable of smiles when he clarified, “Your husband’s is only one of my cases. Or interests. I am actually here because Douglas wished to show me an installation he was particularly proud of. And you?”
“A board meeting,” Rachel said. “I’m on the museum’s board. I was actually one of the people who hired Doug.”
“And has he lived up to your expectations?”
“He’s quite talented,” Rachel praised sincerely. “You must be very proud.”
“I am afraid I don’t really understand much about his work. But, it makes him happy, so what difference does my opinion make?”
“You told me before you didn’t approve of his… lifestyle choices.”
“As I said, I am a bit of Philistine where art – especially modern art – is concerned.”
“What about the rest of Doug’s… lifestyle?” Rachel asked, somewhat desperately. “You’ve resigned yourself to that?”
“I presume you are referring to Chase?”
“Yes,” Rachel hated herself for asking. She hated herself even more for desperately needing to hear his answer.
A shrug. “Once again, Chase makes him happy. And Douglas didn’t precisely ask for my blessing on that front, either. He has always been supremely self-confident. He doesn’t need others’ approval. It’s something he and Chase have in common, actually.”
“Yes. I’ve been on the receiving end of Chase’s… self-confidence.”
“You perhaps have a different word for it?”
“I do. But, I wouldn’t use it in mixed company.”
Eduardo smiled. “They seem well-matched and in love. Nothing else matters.”
“Have you always felt this way? Right from the very start?”
“No,” he conceded. “It took me… time to accept the situation.”
“How much time?”
Eduardo cocked his head, “Why are you asking me this, Mrs. Hutchins? Is your son perhaps…”
“I know how I’m supposed to react. I’m not… I’m not one of those people.”
“Of course not. None of us is. Or so we’d like to think… until the issue moves from the theoretical to the tangible.”
“The fact is, I have a bit of history disapproving of my children’s romantic choices. Men, women, it doesn’t matter. I don’t… react well, when I think they’ve made a mistake.”
“And you feel that way about your daughter?”
“I keep telling myself that’s all it is. The girl in question… she isn’t good for Elizabeth. She’s manipulating her, using her – I can tell. Elizabeth has been so sheltered, and the last few years have been so difficult for her. She can’t… how can she possibly know her own mind? Especially about something as important as this!”
“I see,” Eduardo said calmly. “So it’s merely this particular girl, not…”
“It’s what I want to believe,” Rachel told him honestly.
“Except that you… don’t?”
“How did you do it?” Rachel demanded. “How did you let go of all the plans and dreams you had for your son and accept that some of them were just never going to come true?”
“Ah, well, that part was simple,” Eduardo said with a smile. “Douglas helpfully prepared me in advance with his initial decision to become an artist.”
Rachel couldn’t help but laugh at his deadpan delivery of an obviously well-rehearsed gag. “How considerate of him.”
“You get used to it,” Eduardo said simply. “There is so much more to my son than his preferences. In the end, it is a rather small part of the man that he is. I do love him. As much as you love your daughter, I would venture.”
“I do love her, of course, I do,” Rachel insisted.
“But do you like everything about her?”
“Well…” Rachel considered his point. “There’s always room for improvement.”
“For all of us,” he said. “In reality, your daughter is the same child today as she was yesterday. Nothing has changed.”
“No. I suppose not.”
“But, Mrs. Hutchins, a word of advice if I may: Do not let your attempt to accept your daughter blind you to the faults you perceive in this other girl. If you truly believe she means to do Elizabeth harm, don’t let fears of how your actions may come off to others keep you from protecting your child. It’s been twenty years, and I am very, very fond of Chase. But, if he ever harms my son or my grandchildren in any way… you know me. I never forget a slight. Especially not to my family.”
“Am I in the right place?” Kirkland poked his head into the office he’d been directed to at City Hall to find Grant inside, pacing nervously.
His father stopped abruptly and whipped his head around. “What are you doing here?”
“This is where Sarah told me to come today. She said you guys were getting married. She asked me to be your best man.”
“Isn’t that something the groom is supposed to schedule?”
“You got someone else lined up?” Kirkland asked. “You want me to leave?”
“No,” Grant said. “And… no.”
Kirkland looked around. “So where is she? Sarah, I mean.”
“Lila is bringing her.”
“You guys really doing the Groom Can’t See the Bride the Day of the Wedding bit? Don’t you live together now?”
“I’ve done enough tempting fate in my day. Why take unnecessary risks?”
“You really want this to work out, don’t you?” Kirkland asked, as if it were the first time such a notion had occurred to him.
“I wanted all of my marriages to work out,” Grant told his son pointedly. “Your mother… I loved your mother.”
“What about Amanda?” Kirkland wasn’t going to let Grant get to him. Or let him see that he already had.
“Not my best moment,” Grant conceded. “Though I did care about her, too. But, nothing compared to the way I feel about Sarah.”
“She’s pretty crazy about you, too.”
“You think so?” Grant lit up as if he’d never allowed himself to consider the possibility.
“She’s marrying you, isn’t she?”
“She wants Daisy to have a stable family. The kind Sarah never had.”
“And you think that’s the only reason?”
“No, of course not,” Grant insisted to Kirkland – and to himself.
“If all she cared about was Daisy, she wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of convincing me to be your best man. She wanted to make you happy.”
“And is that why you acquiesced?”
Kirkland shrugged. “What difference does it make?”
Grant knew when to quit pressing his luck. “I’m glad you came, son. Whatever the reason, I – thank you.”
“And I’m glad you and Sarah are friends. You, her, Daisy… the three of you mean more to me than anything else in the world. Sarah isn’t the only one who hopes we can be a stable family. I hope so, too.”
“That would be… something,” Kirkland conceded, avoiding Grant’s eyes the entire time.
“I swear your maid was looking at me funny,” Charlie told Elizabeth after being escorted inside the Cory house.
Elizabeth shrugged. “You really can’t keep anything a secret from the servants.”
“Not when my mom is running around like the town crier, no,” Charlie conceded, then wondered. “So how did you parents react?”
Elizabeth didn’t seem precisely sure herself. “They didn’t… much. Oh, Father wanted to know why I couldn’t have gone for someone of my own class. That seemed to really bother him. He even offered to set me up with some Earl’s granddaughter, or whatever.”
“Hm,” Charlie said. “I guess I never pictured your dad as the progressive type.”
“He’s not. It isn’t as if he offered to set me up with someone poor or, you know, non-WASPish. When Cory tried to say something about how maybe Europe isn’t as evolved as Father claims, he more or less suggested the Nazis had some good points and called all Russians savages. He’s not exactly liberal when it comes to things like that.”
“What about your mom?”
“She… didn’t say much.”
“I wish I had one of those,” Charlie sighed. “My mom hasn’t shut up since she found out.”
“Your parents are okay with… this?”
“My parents have no right to not be okay with it. The only woman in America my dad never slept with is probably the one my mom was shacked up with for years. They don’t get to have an opinion.”
Elizabeth nodded thoughtfully, continuing the fervent motion for just a beat longer than necessary before asking awkwardly, “So… What happens now?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, before we were sneaking around. And now… we don’t have to.”
“Did you like the sneaking around?” Charlie asked.
“It was… I liked having something that was just mine. Something that wasn’t everybody else in the family’s business. Sure, Cory figured it out. But Cory always figures things out. I know stuff about him, too. Otherwise, I’ve never really had a secret of my own before. Father doesn’t like it when we keep secrets. He likes to be kept abreast of things – that’s what he says. It’s for our own safety, he says. Keeping him in the dark, it… it was kind of… liberating, you know?”
“So now that the truth is out, are you saying you want to… drop it?” Charlie probed, strangely ambivalent about what she wished Elizabeth’s answer to be.
“Do you?” Elizabeth smacked the ball back into Charlie’s court.
“I asked you first.” Charlie knew it wasn’t the most mature answer she could come up with, but it seemed to fit the overall emotional level of this conversation.
“I… uhm… no. Not yet. How about you?”
Charlie ducked the question, instead relaying a partial truth, “My dad thinks we’re not taking this relationship seriously.”
“So what?” Elizabeth challenged defiantly. “What business is it of his?”
“Right,” Charlie agreed.
“We can be serious or not serious or whatever. We can do whatever we want.”
“So… we’re… good?”
“Yes,” Charlie’s ambivalence turned on a dime into certainty. “Totally. Who are they to tell us who’s serious and who isn’t? We can do whatever we want, and we’ll show them all.”
“Right,” Elizabeth said.
“You’re pregnant with Jamie’s baby,” Lorna repeated in a tone someone else might have used to confirm their credit card number over the phone.
Olivia nodded, occupying a space somewhere between smug and terrified.
Lorna’s eyes narrowed even as she calmly clarified, “Jamie told me the two of you weren’t sleeping together. That it was all for show.”
Olivia shrugged innocently. “What did you expect him to tell you?”
“The truth. I always expect Jamie to tell me the truth.”
“I thought you didn’t remember anything about your past relationship?” Olivia figured the “gotcha” part of her retort could be implied.
Lorna ignored the barb to ask instead, “Why are you here, telling me this? What are you hoping to achieve?”
Well. That was a good one. To be honest, Olivia hadn’t really thought past seeing the expression on Lorna’s face when she dropped her bombshell. And, so far, that had proven to be most unsatisfying. Even Marley had looked more shocked. Lorna had barely blinked. Maybe that part of her brain had been damaged along with her memory.
“You’re Jamie’s wife…”
“Yes,” Lorna agreed curtly. “I am.”
“You have a right to know.”
“Have you told Jamie yet?”
“Yes!” Olivia felt like she was back on firmer ground. “And he hasn’t told you, has he?”
“I’m sure he has his reasons. Like maybe the fact that you’re full of it.”
“You know,” Olivia pointed out. “Jamie has been in this situation before. He was dating Lisa Grady – your cousin, Lisa, actually – when he knocked up Vicky during a one-night stand. He ended up dumping Lisa and marrying Steven’s mom.”
“And then divorcing her, fighting for custody, and taking Steven away from her,” Lorna added the part of the story that didn’t fit as neatly into Olivia’s narrative.
“My baby is going to mean a huge adjustment to your and Jamie’s lives.”
“Not nearly as huge as the one to yours.”
“I’m ready for it,” Olivia said. “I raised Sarah practically on my own.”
“And you did a fantastic job,” Lorna drawled dryly.
“It’ll be different with Jamie. Jamie isn’t like Dennis. He’ll be a great dad.”
“He already is.”
“Exactly,” Olivia said wistfully.
“Is that it?” Lorna wondered after a moment. “Is that all you came to say?”
“Okay. Let’s hear the rest of it, then.”
Olivia shook her head and all but stomped her foot in frustration. “You know, you don’t have to be such a bitch about it. It’s not like Jamie cheated on you. You were presumed dead. Jamie had every right to go on with his life.”
“He did. And I’m glad he did. I’m glad he had you.”
That wasn’t the response Olivia had been expecting, so she pressed on with her original track, re-stating the obvious, “I was here when you weren’t. I looked after your husband, and I looked after your kids.”
“Thank you,” Lorna said simply. This time without a trace of sarcasm.
“I loved them. And they loved me, too.”
“So I have every right to be a part of Jamie’s life. As a matter of fact, when you get right down to it, considering everything that’s happened, I have more right than you do.”
“Probably,” Lorna understood perfectly well that Olivia was itching for a fight. Just like she knew perfectly well she wouldn’t be giving her the satisfaction of engaging in one. “Except Jamie loves me, not you. You can claim to be carrying Frame quintuplets, and that still won’t change. Here’s the thing, though: I think you’re lying. And I’m a lot more interested in figuring out what you think you’re going to get out of it.”
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