Bay City Independence Day 1992
"We don't know anything about where Allie and Gregory might be," Sarah repeated to Jamie, though a little less emphatic now that he'd explained to her and Steven just what sort of legal and medical trouble the two might be facing.
"What about you?" Jamie held his son's gaze, trying to discern the truth while sadly acknowledging that Steven had been more or less impenetrable to him ever since Vicky died. Ten years ago, the boy had locked up his true feelings and thrown away the key.
"Sorry, Dad. I wish I could help, but, Allie played this real close to the vest."
"You know," Jamie tried a different tack, hoping arrogance might work where a sincere appeal to conscience hadn't. "I talked to hospital security. Whoever helped Gregory with this, they were top-notch. They knew what they were doing, didn't leave a clue."
Steven shrugged, not giving up an inch. "Lot of smart people out there, Dad."
"Want a little hot-dog with your relish?" Marley playfully asked her nephew as he scooped his third spicy spoonful at the buffet table over the already overstuffed bun.
Kirkland shrugged, then promptly tore off nearly half the sausage in a single bite. The better, she presumed, to avoid speaking to her.
Oh, well, Marley could do the talking for both of them. She was, after all, the one with something to say.
"I wasn't in town for those years when things got really bad between your mother and Grant. I only heard about it secondhand from her, which means I pretty much hated him as much as she did, almost as if it'd all happened to me. Except that it didn't. When Grant first came back, you said that all you knew about him were stories, and that you wanted the chance to find out for yourself who he really was."
Kirkland nodded cautiously, still not speaking, but chewing a great deal slower now.
"I guess that applied to me, too. I needed to sift through which were my feelings about Grant, and which were just my identifying a little too strongly with Vicky again."
Kirkland swallowed. "So you jumped into bed with him to find out?"
Marley smiled wryly. "That's not exactly how it happened."
"So how did it? Happen, I mean?"
She blushed, remembering, and hoped that Kirkland would just chalk it up to her getting too much sun. And then she told him the truth, "I was lonely. I've been very lonely for a long time. I love you, I love Steven and I love the girls. But you four weren't enough. I denied that to myself for years, and then, one day, I stopped."
"What about Dad? Jamie?"
Marley took a deep breath, saying the words, believing she meant them, too. "Your dad doesn't love me, Kirk. I finally had to face that."
"And Grant does?" he demanded in disbelief.
"Grants wants me around. He wants to make me happy. He smiles when I enter a room. He tells me that his life is better with me in it."
Kirkland pointed out, "Bet he told Mom all those things, too."
"Lorna?" Felicia approached her daughter just as Lorna was climbing out of the pool, grabbing a towel to throw over her shoulders. She sat down on a nearby chair and, shading her eyes from the sun with one hand, looked up at Felicia quizzically.
Felicia settled next to her. For a moment, they just studied each other, neither one sure of how to start, or what the reaction might be if she did. Finally, without saying a word, Felicia reached out, gingerly picked up her towel and began gently drying Lorna's hair.
Surprisingly, Lorna let her, even leaning back a little with a slight smile, enjoying the attention. She recalled, "My grandmother used to dry my hair like that when I was little. There was a period, when I was maybe five or six, when my hair was so long, after I washed it, it was too heavy for me to lift by myself. I kept telling Gram we should just cut it off, that it was too much trouble for her to deal with it every morning. But she always said, no, it was so pretty, it was a pleasure for her to brush it and style it. I didn't even like it long. Nobody at school had hair as long as I did. Now, though, I'm glad she made me keep it. It reminds me of her."
"I'd have probably let you cut it," Felicia mused, running the dark strands through her fingers where the water had knotted it. "I believed self-expression was very important for women. Nobody should tell you how to look."
"Oh, I still had self-expression. Even at five or six, I was pretty damn expressive."
"I can imagine," Felicia said. And then she added, "I wish I didn't have to."
"Oh, hell," Lorna turned away, blinking her eyes, but no longer due to the blazing sun. "It's probably for the best, saved ourselves twenty extra years of arguing that way."
"I don't want to argue with you, Lorna. And I don't want to argue with your father about us arguing, either. When you stopped by the other day, I was dismissive, and I'm here to apologize for that. Also to tell you why I was so distracted. Sharlene was there only a couple of minutes before. She told me that Donna had been released from the hospital."
"What?" Lorna whipped around.
Felicia nodded. "So now you understand why "
"I'm amazed you were even still at home! If it were me I'd have been "
"Out setting her on fire?"
Lorna demurred. "Or, you know, giving her a stern talking to before summoning the proper authorities."
Felicia smiled in spite of herself. "Don't think it and more failed to occur to me."
"What are we going to do?" Lorna demanded.
"I don't know yet," Felicia admitted. "All I know is that we're going to do it together. You, me, and your father, the way it was always supposed to be. This is a family matter. And we're going to deal with it as a family."
"You're Steven's Aunt Marley, right?" Sarah tentatively asked before holding out her hand in response to Marley's affirmative nod. "I I wanted to say hi. I'm... "
"Sarah Matthews-Wheeler," Marley greeted her warmly. "Dennis and Olivia's daughter."
"Steven's uncle Matt said I was almost... your daughter?"
"He told you about that? How in the world did the subject even come up?"
"It was kind of an oops, a couple months back. He thought we all knew already. Steven freaked out."
"My nephew sees the world in very, what does he call it? binary terms. My girlfriend could have been my sister is a tough thing to compute, even for a certified genius."
"As far as family secrets go in this town, that one doesn't seem so bad. Steven, Kirkland and the girls are great. Who wouldn't want you and Dr. Frame as parents?"
"That's very sweet of you to say," Marley smiled wistfully.
"Yeah, well my actual parents don't think I'm particularly sweet. The word difficult may have come up once or twice." Sarah hesitated, then asked the million-dollar question. "Ms. Hudson, do you ever wonder what your life might have been like if my adoption had gone through the way you wanted?"
"Every now and then," Marley admitted. "I like to believe Jamie and I would have given you a happy home. There were issues the two of us needed to deal with, but, even if that didn't work out, I was committed to raising you on my own. Which, I now realize, was incredibly naive on my part. I wasn't ready to be a mother, especially a single mother. You should be relieved I didn't inflict my inexperience on you. You wouldn't be nearly as together as you are now."
"Your nephews and nieces turned out okay."
"For the time being. I'm afraid the girls haven't yet begun showing off their McKinnon-Hudson heritage. I predict that's going to be fun for everybody."
"I think having you as a mom would've been a great thing. Even back then."
Marley studied Sarah and for a brief, happy, all too real moment she could see it, this smart, beautiful young woman as her daughter. Not Vicky's, not Olivia's.... hers...
"You are making a fool of yourself, darling," Rachel advised Amanda as they stood on the sidelines, cheering on what had evolved into a rather cut-throat volleyball game, with Jamie, Steven, Kirkland, Jasmine and Michele on one side, Kevin, Lucas, Cory, Elizabeth and Bridget on the other, with Carl (!) as arbitrator. "It's rather painful to witness."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Amanda shrugged while raucously applauding Elizabeth's point-scoring spike straight over the net, which Jamie attempted to dive for, but missed, coming up covered in grass stains.
"Repeatedly throwing yourself at Kevin, when the gentleman in question has made it clear in no uncertain terms that he isn't interested."
"You know, Mom, considering how you spent, oh, I'd say the good bulk of your twenties chasing after a man who'd made the exact same thing equally crystal clear, I'd think you might be a little more supportive. Maybe even offer a tip or two."
"It's precisely because of that, Amanda, that I am telling you to drop this. You are a beautiful, intelligent, successful, charming woman. You can have any man you want. Why put yourself through the heartache of obsessing over one who doesn't?"
"And here I thought you, of all people, would understand."
"Don't repeat my mistakes. Make new ones of your own. It's how we grow."
"I don't want to grow. I want Kevin back. I liked how I felt when I was with him. What's wrong with wanting to be happy?"
Rachel hesitated, then, determining that desperate times called for desperate measures, swallowed her pride and suggested, "If you don't think I understand though, I assure you, you're wrong about that why don't you talk to your good friend, Alice? She might offer insight you'd be more willing to accept."
"I have talked to Alice," now Amanda finally turned to look at her mother, eager to catch Rachel's reaction. "She told me to go for it. Alice said that nothing in the world is worse than regretting not having fought for what you wanted, especially when it's a man."
"So I hear your girlfriend's back from her little vacation at the mental hospital," Lorna plopped down next to Matt, plucking a French fry off his plate and popping it into her mouth. "Finally get bored playing the role of feeble, helpless victim?"
"In the interest of keeping things civil, I'm going to walk away now."
He did. But Lorna followed.
"Is she really worth it, Matt?" Lorna asked in a surprisingly gentle tone. "Do you honestly see yourself living out the rest of your life with a woman capable of killing her own daughter, then waving it off as an unfortunate accident? And before you answer, just let me remind you: You made a big show once of humiliating and dumping me in public for merely injuring Jenna's feelings. Wouldn't you say that Donna's crimes against her were just a substantial bit worse?"
"You just don't get it, do you, Lorna? You've never gotten it. When you truly love another person, you don't up and dump them for making a mistake."
Lorna smirked. A part of her wanted to tell Matt he was too late her mother had already played that card, and done it better, too.
But that wasn't the point right now, so Lorna leapt straight into, "Thank you again for reminding that you never loved me when we were together. Unfortunately for you, it's not enough to distract or make me stomp off in a huff that's more your department. Although, just for your personal information, I happen to have more experience forgiving someone their grave mistakes than you can possibly imagine. Finally, Matt, you're a freakin' idiot. Heard from your old pal Dean lately? Your girlfriend destroyed an entire family in one fell swoop. If nothing else, how can you even consider letting her anywhere near that unbelievably amazing kid of yours?"
"You think that I should sever my ties with Donna?"
"I think that you should sever Donna's head from her body. But sure, ties is a start."
He nodded thoughtfully and wondered, "So should I be expecting you to turn your back on Lucas any minute now, over what he did to Donna and Jamie? Remember Jamie? The guy you're currently shacked up with?"
"My father didn't murder anybody."
"No, he just framed a woman, prompting her to attempt suicide, then let an innocent man nearly go to prison for it. If you hadn't settled on Jamie as your latest conquest, I somehow doubt he'd be playing volleyball with his family and admiring your taste in swimwear right now. He'd be in prison, facing a thirty year sentence, and neither you nor Lucas would be giving him a second thought."
"Well, he isn't in jail right now," Lorna fired back, way too quickly, way too crossly, way too shrilly. Because she couldn't deny that Matt's accusation had hit way too close. "And we are together."
"For how long?" Matt taunted. "Don't forget, I knew you first. I know how you operate. A couple of months, you'll get bored or jealous... or both, and you'll take off for greener pastures. Because nobody can ultimately fill up that gaping hole of insecurity inside that you use to batter innocent men to a pulp with."
Helping their grandmother brings the ice cream, sorbet and watermelon out from the industrial freezers in the kitchen, Kirkland told Jasmine, "I went to see Charlie the day her dad got sent to jail. She was really messed up about it. I asked her if she wanted to come over here and hang, but she thought my family would be mad at her."
"We'd never do that!" Jasmine took offense for the combined Cory/Frame/Hutchins.
"I told her. She didn't believe me. I thought maybe if you went over there, told her the same thing, maybe she'd stop being scared to come over. She needs to have some fun right now, take her mind off... stuff. I remember when you and Charlie went riding with me all day after... you know, when it was my dad."
Jasmine nodded emphatically and, as soon as they'd deposited their desserts where Rachel instructed, made a beeline for Lila, urging, "We have to go visit Charlie and Frankie real soon, Mama."
"Because Cass is in jail, and we're family, and we loved him, too, didn't we?"
Lila hesitated, finally admitting, "We did, sugarplum. We loved him. And he loved us."
"So let's go cheer them up."
"Alright. But, fair warning, Jazz. I'm not sure if the sight of me is precisely what the doctor ordered to get the job done."
"Must be tough for you," Steven sidled over to give his seemingly disheartened aunt a spontaneous hug. "Being here, around... everybody."
"Don't worry about me," she reassured. "I come from hardy stock. And it hasn't been all bad. I finally got to formally meet Sarah. Your girlfriend is absolutely lovely, Steven. Aunt Marley heartily approves."
"Thanks. Have I told you lately that I love you for not adopting her?"
"I'll take the love, but not the credit. The choice wasn't mine to make. I'd have done it if I could. But, like I told Sarah too, things ultimately worked out for the best. She did end up back in all our lives in a pretty significant way."
"Kind of like Grant has?" Steven couldn't help himself.
Marley sighed, "Kirkland told you?"
"He mentioned it," the cryptic expression on Steven's face so much like Jamie's, it just added another layer to Marley's already complicated feelings.
"And your thoughts on the matter are...."
"Nothing. Well, maybe one thing. I hope you know what you're doing, Aunt Marley. I don't want to see you hurt like... "
"You had quite the front row seat for Vicky and Grant, didn't you?"
"Close enough to know that it wasn't just what Grant did that caused all the trouble. It was the stuff that he made Mom do in return. I'd really like to spare Bridget and Michele that. I'd really like to spare you, too."
"That's very sweet of you, Steven."
"On the other hand, if you honestly think he's changed and he makes you happy... I gave Dad and Lorna a provisional thumb's up. Only fair I do the same with you and Grant."
"Thank you. You have no idea how much that means to me."
"Just make sure dude knows, he hurts you like he did Mom, I'm not a little kid anymore, I can lay out some serious payback these days."
"Consider Grant duly warned." Buoyed by his unexpected, though sorely longed for, support, Marley ventured, "Listen, Steven, would you do me a favor? Could you keep the girls here overnight? They're having such a good time, and they'll be exhausted by the time the fireworks start. I think I'm going to head out a little early."
"Got your own plans, huh?"
"Something like that."
"It's okay. You can say his name. Not like we'll spontaneously burst into flame or anything... right?"
Both scraping the last dregs of sorbet from the bottoms of their paper bowls, Lorna and Jasmine sat on the edge of the pool, their feet dangling in the water, solemnly testing each other's musical knowledge... and judgment.
"Best rock guitarist?" Lorna challenged.
"Eric Clapton," Jasmine said without hesitation.
"Eddie Van Halen," Lorna corrected.
"The Who's Keith Moon."
"Uh-uh. Neil Peart. Rush."
"Freddie Mercury, Queen."
"Paul Rodgers, both Free and Bad Company. Okay, this is the big one," Lorna paused for effect. "Best rock band ever?"
"I know you're going to say AC/DC," Jasmine began.
"AC/DC," Lorna confirmed.
Jasmine cringed, but bravely held her ground, "Led Zeppelin."
"No way. Number two, maybe... On a good night. When AC/DC is taking a nap."
Jasmine giggled, then pulled out the most mature sounding phrase she knew. "I guess this means we'll just have to agree to disagree for now."
"No." Lorna dipped her head until she and Jasmine were face to face, then tickled her for good measure. "This means I need to take you to a lot more concerts, show you the error of your youthful ways."
"Be sure and listen to Ms. Devon, Jazz," Elizabeth, passing by just long enough to catch the tail end of their conversation, plopped down on Jasmine's other side and smiled enigmatically at Lorna. "She knows all about making youthful errors."
"Excuse me?" Lorna wasn't usually in the habit of taking offense from snotty thirteen year olds. Primarily because they just weren't as good at it as they thought they were. But for Carl's thirteen year old, she could make an exception.
Looking enormously pleased with her eagerly anticipated cleverness, Elizabeth asked Lorna politely, "Would you describe yourself best as my father's one-time courtesan, hetaerae, devadasi, geisha, concubine, or are you cool just with common whore?"
Lorna blinked. Then she laughed. Say what you will, the girl had gotten her attention. Which had obviously been the point. That and to show off her erudition.
In response to the horrified look on Jasmine's face, Lorna rested a comforting hand on the mortified child's shoulder, squeezing it reassuringly, all without taking her eyes off the on tenterhooks Elizabeth.
"First of all," Lorna replied sweetly. "Hetaerae is the plural form for what you meant to say. Hetaera is the singular. Next time, brush up on your Ancient Greek conjugation and don't depend exclusively on World of Warcraft. Second, the original devadasi were symbolically married off to Hindu deities, and while your father is a great many things, a God, he is not. Finally, I doubt that kind of talk is acceptable dinner conversation, even around Carl Hutchins' table, and I know you weren't raised to speak to invited guests that way. Learn some grammar, some history, and some manners, little girl."
"Pardon me, Lorna." Rachel towered above them all. "I would very much appreciate if you refrained from disciplining my daughter."
"Glad to oblige." Lorna slipped her legs out of the water and stood up, putting them both on even ground. "Just as soon as someone else gets around to doing it properly."
Rachel's eyes narrowed. "What precisely is that supposed to mean?"
"It means that your daughter insulted me, and I smacked her down like she deserved."
"I'm certain you misunderstood Elizabeth."
"Okay, Rachel, enlighten me. Is common whore a term of respect in your household?"
"Elizabeth!" Rachel gasped, turning to her daughter, who also scrambled to her feet.
"All I asked was whether she considered herself Father's courtesan? It was a very noble profession at one time. It was! And based on the sort of tasks that she performed while in his employee "
"Google, again?" Rachel wondered, bringing her fingers to her forehead, pained.
Elizabeth nodded. "My question wasn't devoid of merit."
"It was, however, utterly without tact, class, or shame," Jamie stepped up and directed his sister, "Apologize to Ms. Devon. Right now."
"No," Elizabeth crossed her arms. "I wasn't wrong."
"You were rude."
"It was the truth," she insisted. "How can the truth be rude?"
"You're a spoiled brat," Jamie suggested. "That's the truth. And yet still rude."
"Enough!" Rachel snapped. "I will handle this."
"And I'd be happy to let you," Jamie agreed reasonably. "Just as soon as Elizabeth apologizes to Lorna."
"I said that I would handle it. In my own way." Rachel lowered her voice. "I happen to not see the point of embarrassing a child in public. I'll speak to her privately. Later."
"So you're going to let her get away with what she said?"
"Oh, for God's sake, Jamie, don't blow everything out of proportion," Rachel dismissed. "She was just being curious. And, like Elizabeth said, it's not like she was wrong."
"Jamie, don't!" Lorna, seeing that he was about to explode, stepped between the two of them, her back to Rachel, face to Jamie. "Don't," she repeated softly. "Not over me."
"I'm sorry," Rachel began. "I didn't mean that the way it sounded. I meant "
"I don't care what you meant," Jamie said in a voice all the more terrifying for how quiet he'd gotten. "I don't care what you meant, and, quite frankly, I don't care how you feel about Lorna or me or Carl, or Carl and Lorna, or Lorna and me... You don't have to love her, Mom. You just have to respect that I do. Are we clear?"
"May I have a word with you, Felicia?" Carl slipped his arm beneath her elbow and, taking advantage of everyone else's attention currently being focused on the scene Lorna and Jamie were making, deftly led her to the side before she'd had the chance to either assent or dissent to his request. They stood, dimly lit, under the glow of a Japanese lantern, keeping their voices down. "I wished to take a moment, once again, to return to our discussion regarding Donna "
"We told you we'd handle " Half of Felicia's attention was still distracted by her daughter's situation, though, she had to admit, Jamie did appear to have matters well in hand. And Felicia's presence, she suspected, would most likely not be welcomed by either party. Lorna had been humiliated enough as it was. She didn't need her mother stepping in to make things worse. Or admitting that she'd heard.
"No," Carl cut her off, forcing Felicia to turn away from Lorna and face him, the shadows dancing menacingly across his own countenance. "Lucas told me. Lucas, not you. What right has he to make such a unilateral decision?"
"Lucas was Jenna's father."
"Poppycock," Carl hissed, unapologetic. "He barely knew the girl. I've done my research, Felicia. Lucas first laid eyes on our Jenna in the waning days of 1990. By Spring of 1993 we all believed he'd breathed his last. What are we speaking of then? Two years and a bit? How does two years compare to the twenty you spent as her loving mother? Lucas has no moral standing to make the decision here. That is all you."
"And you?" Felicia asked ironically, fully conscious, even a touch amused, regarding where this was heading.
"You and I are the only wholly innocent parties in all of this madness. Donna and Lucas yes, your precious Lucas, too deliberately kept us both in the dark concerning Jenna's parentage. We are her only true, untainted parents. We are the only ones deserving of avenging her death."
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