"That was cool," Cory told Rachel, Carl and the others as they returned home from their medically themed Thanksgiving.
"I'm glad you enjoyed it, sweetheart," Rachel took her son by one hand and his sister by the other, leading both up the stairs, towards their rooms. "I think it made Ms. Gallant very happy to have all of us there to make her holiday a little brighter."
"Oh, yeah, Ms. Gallant, sure," Cory dismissed. He stopped halfway up to look from one parent to the other. "But I meant it was cool to have you guys finally acting like you liked each other again."
Rachel and Carl locked eyes over his head, both mentally scrambling.
Rachel managed to regain her voice first, putting on a cheery face to tell Cory, "Don't be silly. Of course, your father and I still like each other. We love each other."
"Teach not thy lip such scorn," Elizabeth quoted in a most intriguing combination of the Bard and pre-teen sarcasm. "For it was made for kissing, lady, not for such contempt. That's from Richard the Third," she helpfully informed her tragedy-shunning, comedy-loving twin.
"Well, duh," was his response. "I'm not a savage, you know."
On any other occasion, Carl would have found their exchange absolutely delightful. To be honest, even on this occasion he found it rather thrilling. But as he suspected that Rachel did not and even more, that she would frown upon his doing so Carl prudently kept his delight to himself.
First, he told Elizabeth, "Disrespecting your mother by means of Shakespeare merely indicates a lack of esteem for them both. Apologize immediately."
"To which one?" she asked brightly.
"Elizabeth..." Carl warned, indicating that he wasn't joking.
"Sorry, Mom," she gulped quickly.
"And as for you," Carl turned to Cory, "I will thank you not to impugn relations between your mother and myself, especially when you lack any semblance of insight into the issue."
Elizabeth leaned over and whispered a translation to Cory, "Don't diss him and Mom when you don't know what you're talking about."
"Again, duh." Cory reminded, "I speak English."
"Unlike your father, who only does so under extreme duress," Rachel grinned mischievously, which Carl accepted with a tolerant smirk of his own. "Alright. Enough of this. Up to bed, both of you. Everything is fine. There is nothing for you to worry about."
"Do you promise?" Cory demanded.
"I promise," Rachel swore.
"As do I," Carl chimed in.
Their son intoned, "A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise."
"That's not Shakespeare!" Elizabeth exclaimed, mortally offended.
"I know," Cory grinned, visibly pleased with himself. "It's Machiavelli!"
"God help us all," Carl said once both children were safely in bed, and he and Rachel had retired to the relative peace of their own room. "Richard III and Machiavelli! If those are their role-models at twelve, what fresh terrors await us next year as they enter their teens?"
"I warned you that your choice of bedtime reading would come back to haunt us," Rachel teased. "Besides, growing up in Bay City, it won't hurt them to study up on the dark side of human nature. Scheming and plotting and back-stabbing do seem to be a way of life here... for some."
Carl asked, "Are you referring to me?"
"I am referring to everyone currently in the room," she reassured him.
"Thank you," Carl said. "For tonight. Except for having to make pleasant chitchat with Donna whilst wishing I could instead wring her neck, it was a glorious evening. My granddaughter seems to be on her way to a full recovery."
"That is wonderful news."
"And what about us?" Carl asked.
"Us? I don't understand."
"Are we on our way to recovery? When even a child granted, one who peruses the writings of Niccolo Machiavelli can see that there's a rift between us... "
"I told Cory the truth," Rachel said. "You and I love each other."
"Even after everything that has happened since Easter time?"
"Especially after everything that's happened," she reassured. "We're both human. We both made mistakes and judgments and leapt to conclusions that we shouldn't have. But the beauty of you being you and me being me, is that we both know there's more to a person than the sum of their mistakes."
"You are a remarkable woman," Carl said, taking his wife in his arms.
The last word she uttered before kissing him was, "Duh..."
"Who was Ryan?" Alice asked Spencer as he escorted her back to her hotel room. For the first time in their relationship, she was the one asking the prying questions, and Spencer the one cringing. She noted, "You, Grant, and Carl all toasted to him."
"Ryan..." Spencer struggled to find the right words, stopping and starting several times mid-thought. "Ryan was... my son. My adopted son, I suppose. I raised him. I always knew he wasn't... I didn't know who, but I knew... I didn't tell him. My pride was part of the reason, of course. No one likes to publicly admit a woman they were head over heels for bamboozled them. But I loved him. I did. I know he didn't believe me, growing up. He thought I favored Grant. I understand why it looked that way. It wasn't precisely the case, though. Grant was my biological child, so I expected him to be like me. I pushed for it, I demanded it. Ryan was always so different. So moral, so decent, so upstanding. I admired him for it. I just wish he believed me."
"He turned out to be Carl's son?" Alice guessed.
"We both found out about it at the same time. Ryan was a policeman. He'd dedicated a huge chunk of his life to bringing Carl down. In 1991, Grant was running for the Senate. Ryan found a connection between him and Carl. They'd done business together. Grant took money from him. Ryan knew if the information got out it would completely destroy his brother's political career. So he came to me. I had to protect Grant. I had to protect everything we'd worked so hard for. So I took the blame. I said I was the one who'd been working with Carl; Grant was completely innocent. I urged Grant to distance himself from me, and I was the one who went on trial. As you can imagine, that didn't help my already fragile relationship with Ryan. He had to testify against me."
Alice took Spencer's hand and led him to the couch. Spencer rubbed it absently as he remembered, "When the truth about Ryan and Carl came out, I tried to make Ryan believe that I still loved him, that I'd always loved him. When he brought up how I'd made him feel inadequate growing up, never good enough, what a terrible father I'd been, my only excuse, my sole defense doesn't this just summarize it all about me? was to sputter that I'd been an equally awful parent to Grant. When it came to making my children feel insufficient, I played no favorites."
Alice swallowed hard, knowing that there was nothing she could say to absolve him, knowing that he didn't want her absolution or her pity, understanding that just the chance to finally unburden himself after all those years was enough for now. Instead, she simply asked, "Did you and Ryan ever reconcile?"
"No," Spencer shook his head, wincing as if merely admitting the fact was physically painful. "Not really. Not before he died. He said to me, when the truth came out, he said to me, "You are not my father, and I have never been your son." And then he started calling me Spencer. Not Dad, anymore. Spencer."
"Dr. Frame," Alice offered. "That's what Kevin called me the night you brought me to Rachel's. He called me Dr. Frame. Even the afternoon that we stood in front of the judge who granted Kevin's petition to be legally emancipated from me, he still called me Grandma then. And now it's Dr. Frame."
"Feels like having your heart torn out, doesn't it? No, worse, your soul. It feels like every moment from your past, even the good ones, the ones you know were good, the ones you felt proud of... they've all been erased by a single word."
"Those moments can't be erased," Alice said. "They're still there. In fact, the more of them there were, the harder they have to work to deny them. The worse they have to treat us. I still have hope of Kevin coming around."
"Judging by the way he reacted to the sight of you with me, I'd say your hope is most amply warranted. He clearly still cares about you, no matter how much he attempts to refute it."
"I am so sorry you lost that option with Ryan."
Spencer sighed. "I can curse fate or... whomever... for destroying the possibility of any future relationship with him. But when it comes to our past, I have no one to blame but myself."
She kissed him then, a comforting kiss that very quickly turned into something more for both of them.
After a few moments, Spencer whispered, "You have no idea, I don't think, how much I would like to make love to you. Will you allow me to make love to you, Alice?"
Painfully early the next morning, Jamie zigzagged his way down the hospital corridor, patient files in one hand, his shoulder balancing a cell-phone. "I'm working the entire weekend shift, Marley, that includes Friday, and then you're going to have to give me a few hours to rest if you expect me to be able to form complete sentences. I'll just meet you at the courthouse, say, half an hour before the hearing is scheduled to start on Monday?"
"I think we should arrive together," she pressed. "Grant is going to be looking for any sign of our marriage not being legit "
"And us showing up separately will be proof of that?"
"No. Us still living at separate addresses is proof of that. Our not having seen or talked to each other since we got married is proof of that."
"I've barely been living anywhere since we got married. I have a job that "
"I know. Your job is so important that it's kept you from sitting down with me, and us working out just what the hell we need to do to keep Grant from taking Kirkland away. Do you know that Grant's bought a house for the two of them to live in? Or that they're seeing each other practically every other day?"
Jamie skidded to a stop in front of his office door. "No," he finally admitted. "Kirkland told you this?"
"Are you kidding? As if Kirkland would confide in me about anything to do with Grant. The detective I hired found this out. And a lot more. We need to talk. Not over the phone or via back and forth texts and e-mails. You and I need to be in the same room for more than ten minutes."
Exhaling slowly, Jamie nodded. "I know. You're right. How about dinner after the hearing? Just you and me. We can talk, catch-up.... I'm sorry, Marley. I know I've been all over the place lately."
"You'll make it up to me with dinner, dessert, and a lot of wine. I have a feeling we'll need a carafe after this hearing."
"A bottle or two for sure," Jamie sighed, opening the door to his office and stopping in the doorway, surprised but then again, not; so much of his past had come bubbling to the surface lately, why not her, too? to find a visitor waiting for him.
"Marley, I have to go," he said as calmly as he could. Jamie nudged the door closed behind him and flipped his phone shut, mumbling, "I'll see you later," into a disconnected line.
"Hello, Jamie," Frankie said.
After celebrating the holiday with his mother, Sharlene, his sister, Josie, Josie's husband, Gary, and their new baby, Jarrett, Gregory spent the night at the farm. He tried calling Allie after dinner, but when she wasn't answering her phone, figured that Rachel's big hospital shindig went later than they'd all expected.
However, when there was still no answer the next morning, he got concerned enough to come back to town. It wasn't like Allie to not even at least reply to him with a quick text. She was a little obsessive about proper cell and e-mail etiquette. She believed in the 24-hour turn-around, even if it was just to say, "More later."
Gregory realized that several missed calls and e-mails would signify to some that they were being brushed off. And he didn't discount the possibility. But first he wanted to make sure that she was all right.
"If I'm coming off like a stalker," Gregory addressed Allie's back while she sat staring out across a desolate duck pond at the edge of the Cory property. "Just say the word and I'll back away quietly. But I was driving by the house, and then I saw you out here...."
"At this point," Allie told him without turning around. "I'd take being stalked as a compliment."
Gregory sat down on the slightly damp grass next to her, zipping his jacket up to the top, and proceeding to study the few remaining ducks with the same intensity as Allie. Perhaps there was more to them than it initially seemed.
After a while, Allie said, "I've always loved it here, ever since I was a little kid. Whenever my parents wanted to fight in private, they'd tell my nanny, Hilda, to take me here. Guess they didn't want me around, either."
Gregory guessed, "GQ?"
"What?" Allie stared at Gregory as if she were having trouble placing whom he was talking about. "Oh. Yeah, well, him, too. But that, I had that coming. And I would have seen it coming, if I'd just gotten my head out of the clouds and listened to what he was really saying, instead of sticking my fingers in my ears and singing about ebony and ivory."
Gregory nodded, and just waited for her to continue.
"It's Sarah. She... dumped me. She un-friended me. And I'm not talking Facebook. Though I should probably check that, too." Allie sighed and proceeded to fill in, "I came to her for some advice and... Look, I know I'm needy; I'm not oblivious to that. I know that I can get melodramatic and act like I think everything's about me... But I've been this way for years, okay? It's not a new development. She put up with me for so long... I don't know what happened. She said I wasn't worth being friends with anymore. She didn't even say why. I mean, she did.... But it didn't make any sense. Why would she just wake up one morning and... We've been friends since we were little kids. She is the only one in the whole world who gets how insane my family is. There were so many times in the past when I thought, that's it, this is the worst thing that's ever happened to me, I am never, ever going to be happy again. It was all trivial stuff a flunked test, or some guy not calling me, or some girl not inviting me to her party, or a fight with my mom. But it all felt like the end of the world then. Except Sarah never let me believe it. She could always, always cheer me up. I'd start smiling just thinking about calling her, because I knew she would make me feel better." Allie sniffled. "I know what I sound like, okay? Don't tell me that I just leaned on her and leaned on her until she couldn't take it anymore. I know I sound like a selfish, spoiled brat. But I have no idea how to maneuver through a single day without believing that Sarah's got my back. She was like, the brave part of me. She allowed me to take chances, because I knew she'd be there to pick me up if when everything fell apart. I don't know what I did to make her so mad at me. I don't know how I'm supposed to fix things. Sarah was the one who always fixed things for me."
Frankie offered, "I'm sorry, Jamie. This has to be... weird for you."
"No... I think I've been expecting it. When my mom first told me you were... I didn't register it. I've had a lot going on."
"I've heard. Cass told me. Kirkland. Grant."
Jamie nodded, "But when I saw you at Thanksgiving... I knew, sooner or later, we'd have to..." He stepped up and gave her a hug. "It's good to see you, Frankie. Welcome back."
"I need your help." Her request sounded more like an advance apology. "With Cecile."
"Cecile?" he repeated, freezing mid-embrace, that name being the last one he wanted to hear today or ever.
Frankie stepped back and explained, "My missing years? They're thanks to her. She had me kidnapped, drugged, brainwashed into forgetting my family. Into forgetting myself."
Jamie felt his stomach turn and he doubled over, needing to sit down. "I'd say she's hit a new high or low, as the case my be. But drugs are an old familiar part of Cecile's arsenal."
"It gets worse. She threatened to hurt Charlie because I defied her and returned to Bay City. Because I went to Cass and told him the truth."
Taking an unsteady breath, Jamie tried to keep his focus on Frankie, refusing to give in to the panic that threatened to overtake him. "So Cecile? She's back in town?"
Frankie nodded. "That's why I've come to you. I need your help."
Even as he shook his head, deep down Jamie was already putting it together, the horrific realization of what Frankie was asking, what she wanted from him, making his mouth go dry. "I don't know how.... "
"You saw her, Jamie. You saw Cecile with me. When we were both in the sanitarium in San Francisco..."
Please come back this Thursday, December 3 for Part #2 of this week's episode.
International viewers can see this week's corresponding AW episode on YouTube, here.
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