Take a trip back in time to 1991's 4th of July celebration in Bay City!
"So it really doesn't bother you?" Amanda followed Jamie around as he set up a series of folding beach chairs adjacent the Cory pool in preparation for their 4th of July celebration.
"I married twin sisters. It would be a bit hypocritical of me to be bothered by the fact that Lorna and Matt dated a long time ago."
"She slept with Carl, too."
"An even longer time ago. And seeing as how I don't hold that stomach-churning fact against our mother "
"She also had an affair with Grant. Lorna, not Mom," Amanda added quickly to stave off Jamie's burgeoning smart-ass retort.
"I seem to recall someone else taking a similar mistake further, not only sleeping with Grant, but actually marrying him. Who might that have been? Let me think...."
"I'm just trying to point out that your new girlfriend is "
" Hauling around a lot of baggage."
"Aren't we all?"
"Speaking of Grant, how's Kirkland doing after catching him with Marley?"
"He's coping. I think. I hope."
"Poor kid. I mean, I want to pour lye into my eyes after seeing the two of them "
"Spare me the details."
"To think while you were sitting in jail, that back-stabbing bitch was taking up with "
"What's with the name-calling? From where I'm sitting, none of this concerns you. I got over what happened between Marley and me, you should, as well. And soon. I invited her and the girls, same as every year."
"I'm just trying to be a supportive little sister," Amanda defended.
"You can show your support by playing nice with Marley. And Lorna. She's coming too."
"Oh, won't Mom love that?" Amanda muttered, before shifting gears. "Have you noticed anything weird between her and Carl over the past few days?"
"You mean how they're constantly circling each other, neither one saying a word except through other people, while waiting for the other to make some mysterious first move? Yeah. It's been kind of tough to miss."
"Do you think it's serious?"
"Gee, Amanda, could you sound any more hopeful that it is?"
"Come on, Jamie. You and I both know that other than hurting Cory and Elizabeth, which nobody wants, Mom and Carl splitting up wouldn't exactly be devastating news around here. And it'd definitely make family functions easier for Lorna, wouldn't it?"
"While I'm certain that Lorna's comfort is your uppermost concern these days, can we break for a minute and talk about the one thing you seem determined not to discuss this morning? What's the latest on Allie?"
Unable to keep hiding behind gossip of Grant and Marley or Rachel and Carl, Amanda sighed, thoroughly demoralized, and confessed, "I've put a couple of Brava investigators on their trail. Not because of Sharlene, but because I'm hoping they can find Allie and Gregory before the police do, so I can protect her."
"You want me to check if Steven or Sarah know anything? They all used to be tight."
"I think that ended a while ago, but, then again, what do I know?" Amanda looked up at Jamie, almost begging for answer. "How did this happen? How did Allie and I drift so far apart that she didn't think she could come to me for help with something this huge? I am terrified for her, and there's nothing I can do except take my frustrations out on people who, for the record, do deserve it..."
Jamie turned his head to search where Amanda's gaze had settled. Marley stood by the French doors of the patio, holding Bridget by one hand and Michele by the other.
"Be nice," Jamie warned his sister.
"We'll see," was all she'd commit in return.
"If you think no one has noticed, my dear," Carl informed Rachel as she did a final check of the buffet, making sure that all of the perishable side-dishes, salads and drinks were on ice, while the meat lay pink and ready for grilling, and the interim sliced vegetables, dips and fruits readily available for instant snacking. "You are most grievously mistaken. Just this morning, Elizabeth inquired whether perhaps you'd taken a vow of silence in anticipation of entering a Tibetan monastery."
"Seriously?" his phrasing was enough to make Rachel break the aforementioned vow of silence, at least where Carl was concerned. "Those were the actual words she used?"
"Those precise ones, yes."
"And you still don't think our children are a little odd? It's going to get them into trouble one day, mark my words."
"I think they are brilliant and put all other dullard adolescents to shame. But that is neither here nor there at the moment. We cannot go on like this, Rachel. We simply must put an end to this unpleasantness between us."
"You know how you can do that."
"And you know why I can't, and thus won't."
Rachel shrugged dismissively, turning to greet an entering Felicia and Lucas.
"Have you heard?" Felicia demanded, cutting off Rachel's greeting mid-phrase. "It's Donna." She looked from Carl to his wife, both of whom blanched at the name and exchanged looks. "She's been released from the hospital. She's a free woman again."
"Uncle Jamie!" First Michele, then Bridget slammed into him for a hug, nearly knocking Jamie over from his arms outstretched, squat. "We missed you."
"I missed you, too." He kissed the top of first one dark haired head, then another. "I'm sorry I was gone for so long."
"That's okay," Michele said. "Aunt Marley explained. And we saw the news."
"We're really glad you're not going to jail anymore," Bridget told him politely.
"But if you want to make it up to us with a trip to Disneyland," Michele offered.
"Or the new Harry Potter Park," Bridget confirmed. "We'd be fine with that."
"How about I help you guys knock out a couple of back-flips in the pool?"
"That's cool, too," they agreed before rushing off to join Jasmine, Cory and Elizabeth already in the water. And leaving Jamie alone with Marley, who, for the duration of Jamie and the twins' exchange, had stood awkwardly and silently off to the side.
Finally, she ventured, "It was very nice of you to invite us. This year."
"Bridget and Michele are important to me. Nothing will ever change that."
"We have a lot to talk about, don't we, Jamie? That is, if you even want to... "
"I do. And we do. But not today. Not the time, not the place."
"Marley," Lorna materialized at Jamie's side, wearing a white, sleeveless wrap dress that set off the olive in her skin and made Lorna look like the poster child for summer vitality, while Marley, in a pink T-shirt and shorts she now realized only served to wash her already pale complexion out further, felt like a tubercular vampire. "Hello."
"Hi, Lorna." Marley said, adding in the same breath, "I better go check on the girls, make sure they remembered to put on sun-screen. Excuse me."
Lorna peered up at Jamie, noting the pained look on his face as he watched Marley walk away, "You miss her."
"I do," he admitted, grateful not to have to defend or, worse, deny how he felt to Lorna. "She was my best friend. We always had each other's backs... until we didn't."
"I'm sorry." Lorna rested her cheek against Jamie's shoulder, kissing his bare upper arm.
"Me too," he sighed regretfully.
"I warn you, I'm not much of a swimmer," Kevin told Lila as she greeted him at the door and escorted her guest out back.
"How are you at laying around the pool, all slicked up, gleaming with baby oil?"
"Is that all I am to you?" He clutched his chest dramatically with one palm as if mortally offended. "Summertime eye-candy?"
"It's a start," she laughed.
"I play a mean game of volleyball, though. I'm not sure if you've noticed, but I can be a tiny bit competitive."
"You hide it beautifully," Lila reassured, patting him on the arm and leading Kevin towards the food, bending over a cooler to fetch him a beer, only to straighten up, turn around and discover that Amanda was now somehow standing at Kevin's elbow, also holding a beer, all but batting her eyelashes and pleading, "I need to speak to you in private, Kevin. It's urgent."
"That's impossible," Carl sputtered. "Either Donna is mad as a hatter, at which point she ought to be under lock and key and padded wall, or she's as sane as you or I, in which case she deserves to be held responsible for what she did to my to our child."
If Lucas was appeased by the last minute change of pronoun, he failed to look it. Felicia, however, did appear vaguely touched by the gesture.
"I don't have the full story yet," Felicia admitted. "Lori Ann was staying with us, and I couldn't very well go rushing off after Donna and leave her."
"Is she here with you now?" Carl looked around eagerly.
"No. Frankie came and took her home this morning. She and the girls are going to celebrate the holiday with Cass."
"Ironic," Carl observed, then explained, "Independence Day... with him incarcerated. It's... ironic." When no one else seemed to agree, he deftly changed the subject. "Rest assured, this won't stand. I shall "
"You'll do nothing," Lucas interrupted threateningly. "Felicia and I will deal with our daughter's murderer ourselves. And you'll stay far, far away, if you know what's good for you."
"What's with the awkward silence?" Jamie looked from Kirkland busying himself with a slice of melon, to Steven busying himself with Sarah, to Lorna, patiently waiting for her grilling to commence. "We've all shot hockey pucks at each other, no need to be shy."
Steven pointed out, "Yeah, but back then Miss Devon "
"Cut it out with the Miss Devon, would you? It's Lorna. All of you can call me Lorna."
"Okay, well, back then, Lorna was just an old friend of Uncle Matt's."
"Old?" Lorna repeated archly as Jamie and Kirkland both turned to Steven with identical looks of amused disbelief.
"Not old," he stammered, looking frantically around for help. Getting nothing back but smirks. " I just meant you and Uncle Matt knew each other a long time ago.... That doesn't sound much better, does it?"
"No, honey," Sarah gave him a consoling pat on the cheek. "Better stop talking now."
"Try not to get offended by anything you hear coming out of Steven's mouth," Kirkland recommended. "He's a bit socially awkward. What he meant was that back then you were a family friend, now you're Dad's girlfriend. It's... different."
"How?" Jamie challenged.
"Back then we could, uhm, for instance... ask her for money. Now, we can't."
"Back then she was someone who really didn't care what we did one way or the other," Steven added. "Now she's a potential snitch to you."
"Back then we wanted to be nice to her "
"Now we kind of have to be."
"How about we just cut to the chase?" Lorna suggested. "I really like your dad, which means anything important to him, is important to me. And that's you guys, period."
"We like you, too," Kirkland confessed. "Well, I do. I can't really speak for Steven, since he talks in code."
"It's okay," Sarah chimed in. "I speak Steven." She studied her boyfriend thoughtfully for a minute and supplied, "He's cool."
Having managed to sequester Kevin to a private corner of the gazebo, where even Lila's eagle eyes would be hard pressed to lip-read through the slats, Amanda checked, "You're Gregory's lawyer?"
"I helped him draw up his living will, yes."
"You know he's missing?"
He nodded. "Sharlene called, filled me in, threatened me a little. I wish I could say I blame her, but I don't. I warned Gregory this might happen."
"Did you warn either him or Allie about what could happen if they went on the run?"
"I had no idea that's what they were considering."
"How much trouble could Allie be in?" Amanda begged, "Tell me, please, I need to know. I have to be prepared."
"That bad?" Amanda groaned.
"It really depends. Gregory is a legal adult, so it's not like she kidnapped a minor, and the phone call his parents received clearly indicates that Gregory voluntarily participated in the exodus. On the other hand, Sharlene and John could well make the case for him being incompetent. At which point Allie might be judged the instigator. And that's just the kidnapping allegation. There's also... there's also assisted suicide. Which can, if the DA feels like it, sometimes become a manslaughter charge."
"No. No," Amanda shook her head. "Gregory is dying anyway, even Sharlene and John said so. Manslaughter... oh, God, Kevin. That could mean prison, couldn't it?"
"I don't know. There's no boilerplate for this. The law is too new."
"Will you help Allie? Once we find her, or once she finally comes home, will you help?"
"I'll do everything I can. She and Gregory... I really feel like I got to know them both during Hudson's adoption. They're great kids. Honestly, I'm not surprised they've done this. Those two will risk anything for each other, it's really something to see."
"I'm glad they've got you on their side," Amanda told Kevin sincerely, stretching up on her toes and kissing him on the cheek. "And I'm thrilled I've got you on mine."
"Did you know Donna was out of the hospital?" Rachel asked Matt. Then, before he had the chance to answer, pressed on, "Of course. You must have. You've been going up to visit her every day."
"Until she told me to stop."
"She did?" Rachel startled. "Why?"
"Your guess is as good as mine."
"You've been the only one on her side since the beginning. Even Marley wanted nothing to do with her."
"Well, she's got John Hudson now, I guess that downgrades me to old news."
Matt shrugged. "He's Michael's brother. Which makes him almost Michael. Which makes him a whole lot more appealing to her than me."
The pain in her son's voice derailed Rachel's righteous indignation long enough for her to reach out and stroke his arm. "I'm sorry, Matthew. Whatever she did, whatever I think of her, I know you loved her. This must be very painful for you."
"That almost sounded sincere, Mom."
"It was. No matter how incensed I am by what she's done, no matter how much I want to see her pay, that will never, ever be more than I love you."
"Prove it," Matt challenged. "Prove that you love me more than you hate Donna. Give me your word that you won't go after her. Give me your word, that, no matter what he says or does or promises, you won't help Carl go after her."
Between trying to avoid being anywhere in Jamie and Lorna's love-struck vicinity... or Amanda's newfound bitchiness... or Felicia, lest she feel like slapping her again, Marley inadvertently backed up blindly from watching Michele and Bridget playing Marco Polo in the pool, and nearly tripped over a body coming from the other direction, gingerly holding two plates heaped with food. When Marley turned around to apologize, she found herself face to face with the man who'd tried to frame her mother for murder.
"Sorry, Marley," Lucas said slowly, his words landing heavily in the air.
"No, you're not," she corrected, her meaning obvious and condemnatory.
"You're right," he agreed, happy for the chance to say it, even if he knew that it was neither polite nor gracious of him to feel and act this way. "I'm not."
"You're pathetic," Lila chose to skip the pleasantries and leap right to the point with Amanda. "And shameless. Using your own daughter to "
"Shut up," Amanda spun around, genuine anger displacing what otherwise might have stayed self-satisfied bitchiness. "My daughter is in trouble. Serious trouble. If you choose to interpret my consulting with a lawyer as anything more than an attempt to help her, then you're the pathetic one. Not to mention wretchedly insecure."
"Oh, please." If Amanda expected Lila to shrivel up and die at the rebuke, then she didn't know whom she was dealing with here. "This sort of thing isn't even in Kevin's specialty. Were you really concerned about Allie, you'd be consulting with an actual expert, instead of desperately rifling through inappropriate briefs that don't even belong to you anymore."
"Where is Kevin?" Amanda made an exaggerated show of looking around. "Why isn't he plastered to your side?"
"He's got a volleyball game going with the children. Kevin loves children, you know. He told me you didn't want anymore. Ain't that a shame? Kevin wants a houseful. I always regretted not having another baby after Jasmine. There was the one I lost with Cass, and we just sort of gave up trying. But Doctor says it's still possible. Lucky me."
"Psst, Uncle Jamie!" Jasmine's head, bangs plastered to her forehead, bobbed at the pool's edge as she clung to the side, peddled her legs furiously to stay afloat, and reached out one arm to beckon Jamie down to her level.
"What's up, Jazz?" he crouched on his knees and, when that wasn't enough, bent all the way over so she could cup her hand and whisper in his ear. "I really like Miss Devon."
Jamie grinned, glancing over his shoulder at Lorna, who was watching their conversation with amusement, all the while pretending not to, giving Jasmine her illusion of secrecy. He whispered back, "I really like her, too."
Jasmine giggled and pushed off, treading water on her back, calling, "You two are going to make such pretty babies!"
If there were still such a thing as records, Jasmine's words would have had the effect of a needle sliding painfully across the length of one. As it was, Rachel, who'd been crossing for a refill on her lemonade shuddered and practically skidded to a stop in front of Jamie.
He speared a melon ball from his fruit salad with a plastic fork and waved it in her direction. "Hi, Mom. Terrific party. We really lucked out with the weather this year."
Rachel was way past discussing the weather. "Jamie... Was that Is this something you and Lorna are... considering?"
"Uh-ha," Jamie nodded, noncommittal, well aware that his own mother wasn't the only one listening in, dying for elaboration. The sole person he really felt for in the situation was Marley. In spite of everything, she didn't deserve to have her face rubbed in his current happiness. Everyone else... fair game.
"And?" Rachel prodded.
"We'll keep you posted on our progress," Jamie put down his bowl and, with a smile, tilted backwards until he'd flipped head over heels into the pool, sending up a splash to soak everyone in the immediate vicinity.
Lorna laughed and, even less eager to be publicly quizzed on her reproductive ambitions than Jamie had been, called out, "Wait for me!"
She skimmed off her wrap dress, unveiling a fire-engine red monokini underneath, the bare back and two deep slits in the sides somehow managing to make an allegedly one-piece swimsuit look even more revealing than a string bikini.
"Wow," Amanda made a point of helpfully pointing out to a nearby Marley, "Did you know you were competing with that? Because if I'd known I was competing with that when I was married to Grant, I wouldn't have even bothered. No wonder she snagged Jamie from you."
"No wonder she snagged Grant from you," Marley had recently learned that she could be equally as helpful when the occasion called for it.
Amanda snorted. "Except that Jamie is a catch. And Grant is... the opposite. Don't say I didn't warn you, Marley. Don't say all of us didn't warn you."
"Awfully nice of Lorna," Matt directed Jamie's attention as he was climbing the step-ladder out of the pool towards their younger brother, watching with a rapturous, fascinated expression on his face as Jamie's girlfriend gleefully raced his niece across the deep end. "To jumpstart Cory's entering puberty."
Jamie ruffled Matt's hair condescendingly, "She did do a fantastic job ushering you through..."
Chortling at Matt's flabbergasted response all he could do was petulantly push his big brother's palm off his head and scowl Jamie sobered up quickly when he spied Steven and Sarah sitting by themselves under an umbrella at a small table, digging into a pair of burgers, their heads titled together as if sharing a private joke, and Jamie remembered his promise to Amanda.
Pulling up a chair next to them and helping himself to a carrot-stick, Jamie tried to sound casual as he asked, "Do you two know anything about where Allie and Gregory have disappeared to?"
Sarah held up a finger, bidding Jamie to wait until she finished chewing, swallowed, wiped her lips with a napkin and shook her head. "Allie and I kind of had a falling out a few months back. She doesn't tell me stuff anymore."
"You were both there when Gregory had his seizure."
Steven shrugged, imitating his father's casualness down to the carrot-stick when he coolly explained, "We just happened to be in the dorms. So were lots of other people. Allie came running to my room for help, that's all there is to it."
"This isn't a game, guys," seeing that he was barking up the wrong tree, Jamie switched tactics. "It's not about showing off and proving how smart you all are. I know damn well how smart you are. I know that you're both smart enough to understand just how much trouble Allie is in. She could go to jail, do you understand that? Not to mention Gregory, he might need medical help; not to keep him alive, I'm not claiming we can do that, but to help with the pain he's got to be in. He's going to have trouble breathing soon, swallowing, moving. We have drugs to help make him more comfortable. He can die in peace the way he wants, but he doesn't have to suffer. Please, Steven, Sarah, think about Allie and Gregory. If you know where they are, it is in their best interests for you to tell me."
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