Grant said, "If you don't want me running for Mayor, just say the word. As much as I've come to realize I want back in that game, as much as I'd like to leave some kind of legacy that Kirkland can be proud of, I won't sacrifice the people I love to do it. Not this time."
"Wow. I didn't realize that hope and change had trickled down quite this far the political landscape."
"I mean it, Marley."
"And I mean this." She leaned forward, kissing him lightly, proceeding to murmur three words destined to affect both their lives for the foreseeable future. "Count me in."
"Really? You're sure?" His grin froze halfway up, as if Grant couldn't accept his good fortune quite yet.
"Sure that it's going to be an insane, bloodcurdling, outrageous experience akin to getting a public root canal in the nude."
"Then why "
"Who am I to hold back greatness?"
"Please, Marley. Be serious."
"I am. I have never seen you this excited. And I've seen you pretty darn excited."
"Apples and oranges," Grant mumbled with an almost embarrassed smile.
"Not to mention, I remember back when you were running for the Senate. Before matters got so complicated between the two of you, Vicky would just gush about all the things you wanted to do, all the plans you had for improving people's lives. You weren't an evil, mustache-twirling politician only out for yourself. You had ambitions. Admirable ambitions. If I can help you achieve even some of those things now...I want to. At least, I want to give it a try."
"I thought, instead of letting Felicia play intermediary, you and I could talk," Frankie told Lorna. "Get everything out into the open."
"Okay," Lorna agreed, opening the door to the guesthouse and waving her unexpected visitor inside.
Frankie noted the boxes in their various stages of assembly; Lorna perched on the ground with a roll of masking tape. She said, "I hear you and Jamie are moving in together."
"Yup. I'm sure my mother told you all about it. Including why it's a lousy idea."
"She's worried about you."
"So she says."
Frankie smiled faintly. "You sound like Charlie."
Unable to think of a response that wouldn't use at least three of the seven words George Carlin claimed you once couldn't say on television, Lorna merely shrugged in response and continued to focus on her packing.
Frankie got the hint. She offered, "I understand why you're doing this. I believe that you love Lori Ann. You would have made a wonderful mother for her."
"Yeah, well," Lorna stood up off the floor, flipping the roll of tape in her hand. "You're about the only one who thought so."
"We all did what we thought was best for her at the time."
"Spare me, okay? I had a front row seat to Cass' version of doing what was best. Killing Cecile and letting Jamie take the fall for it sure would have been best for him. Screw everyone else."
"He didn't let that happen. He stepped forward."
"Only after Lucas did." Lorna wondered, "Is that really the kind of example you want to set for Lori Ann? You want her growing up with a father who's a criminal and a liar and a coward, to boot?"
"Cass Winthrop," Frankie seethed. "Is the bravest man I have ever known. He could have kept quiet. But he didn't. He could have fought the charges. But he didn't. He sacrificed his own life so that your mother didn't have to lose Lucas yet another time."
"True," Lorna mused. "I suppose he could have put on pantyhose and gone undercover as Crystal Lake again to avoid taking responsibility for his actions. You're right. Cass has grown as a person. Bully for you both."
"I take it back," Frankie said after a moment. "You may have wanted to be Lori Ann's mother. But you are nowhere near being ready to raise a child. You're still one yourself. A petty, selfish, jealous child. Being a parent means putting your needs secondary to someone else's. It means being able to see beyond your own immediate interests."
"Was Cass looking out for Charlie and Lori Ann's interests when he poisoned Cecile?"
"He was. And he still is. I came here, Lorna, believing that we could work something out. I thought that you could be reasonable. I guess that was a mistake."
"You want me to be reasonable about my niece being raised by a killer?"
"I do. When the alternative is her being raised by a rapist."
Driving back to Bay City, Jen didn't take her eyes off the road as she asked Alice, "How much longer does he have?"
"A day. Maybe two at the most."
"You know, I thought about going to medical school. When you're good at science, it's kind of a gimme."
"What stopped you?" Alice wondered. "Organic chem.?"
"Organic chem. didn't help," Jen admitted. "But, no, it was... this. I knew I couldn't hack it. A nineteen year old kid dying... no, thanks. I ran into the research lab, locked the door behind me, buried my head in a stack of books and never looked back." She wondered, "How do you do it? How do you deal with the illogic of it? It's just not right. This isn't how it's supposed to work. It makes no evolutionary sense. The human race is allegedly single-mindedly devoted to the propagation of our species. Dying young goes against everything commonsense and natural and... damn it," she wiped her eyes with the back of one hand, struggling to control the car with the other.
"Those stacks of books to bury your head in aren't particularly helpful once you get out in the real world, are they?" Alice asked gently.
"Only for throwing in anger," she choked out, then changed the subject. "Gregory delivered Allie's baby, you know. That wasn't too pleasant of an experience either. Probably worse for her than for me, since I just watched. But at least it had a point."
"I had a daughter," Alice said slowly. "She died young, too. Not as young as Gregory, but young enough that I'm still trying to figure out the point of it. And I've long ago given up looking through books for the answers."
"Your daughter was my dad's mother, right? She was your only child?"
"I'd lost a baby earlier, before I adopted Sally."
"Dad doesn't talk about her much."
"I wouldn't expect him to."
Jen snuck a peek sideways and told Alice, "He's really not a bad guy."
"I'm sure he isn't. A bad guy couldn't have raised a notable young woman like you."
"He's just... a little messed up about some things."
"Aren't we all?"
"I don't know; you seem to have it together pretty much."
"At my age, you don't really get a choice in the matter."
Jen smiled at that, asking, "Why did you come back to your office this afternoon?"
"You mean, why didn't I fall for your little ploy?"
"Yeah," she agreed sheepishly.
"Dumb luck mostly. I almost did. But, halfway out to my car, I decided I wasn't in the mood for Kevin to harangue me about yet another behavioral infraction imaginary or otherwise. So I called his phone to ask what this was all about, and got a recorded message saying he was scheduled to be in court all day. I think a better question is, how do you expect your dad not to find out about your sending me that message?"
"I erased the text right after I sent it. You got it, but there's not going to be a record left in his phone. He could recover it, I suppose. But why would he think to?"
"I see," Alice said. "Smart girl."
"Obviously not nearly as smart as I thought." Jen hesitated. "Dr. Frame?"
"My grandmother Camille, she died when I was ten."
"I still miss her. I mean, my dad is great, he did everything he could.... But it's not the same thing. Do you... would you... do you think it might be okay if I called you.... Grandma?"
Alice cleared her throat and leaned over briefly, squeezing Jen's arm as she paused under a traffic light. "I would be honored."
"Got a minute for me, Counselor?" Lila grabbed Kevin by the tie as he was walking down a courthouse hallway and pulled him into an empty utility closet, pinning him against the wall, between the mops and cleaning products, and kissing him before he'd had the chance to answer one way or another.
"Hello, Lila," he replied, non-committal, scrambling to keep her hands off the buttons and zippers she seemed determined to simultaneously undo. "I'm sorry, but Family Court is a bit like Denny's. No shirt, no shoes, no service."
"Family Court can wait," Lila's tongue snaked his ear.
"I'm afraid it can't." Kevin forcefully pushed Lila away, holding her stiffly at arm's length. "And neither can my saying this: Cut it out, Lila. I don't need you popping me out of court to remind me about how fantastic you are. I know exactly how fantastic you are. If I didn't, I wouldn't be with you. And I am with you. Last night, I "
"Made a fool of yourself over Amanda."
"No question about it. And I apologize. Again. I promise I'll make it up to you."
Lila admitted, "I didn't mind you ogling her so much. Pretty woman working it that hard deserves to be ogled; I can't hold that against her."
"Then what's the problem?"
"Problem is, you weren't just taking stock of the merchandise, you were glaring daggers at Grant for doing the exact same thing."
"You were jealous, Kevin. Jealous that she was laying it on so fast and furious for him, and not for you."
Kevin hesitated. "I suppose maybe I was."
"Jesus Christ, Counselor, you ain't under oath. Whatever happened to being a gentlemen and letting loose with a little white lie or two to guard a lady's ego?"
"I respect you too much to do that, Lila."
"Gee, thanks," she snorted.
"I've always been straight with you, and I intend to keep on being straight with you. Yes, I was jealous last night. But it didn't mean anything beyond the fact that I'm a selfish jerk. Once something was mine, I don't like anybody else having it. Even if I don't want it anymore. It's a real problem. I often grieve about it on long winter evenings."
Lila had to laugh at that. "I used to think I wanted an honest man. But you fellows ain't exactly everything you're cracked up to be."
"I know," he pulled Lila closer, smiling and ducking his head to kiss her neck. "Good thing it makes us work extra hard to compensate...."
"I am getting too old for this," Jamie announced after a last minute three-point shot by Cory gave him and Kirkland the victory and bragging rights to top off the afternoon's basketball game.
"Or maybe we're just getting too good," Kirkland countered, laughing and tossing Jamie a can of root beer from the cooler they'd dragged out.
"You're just getting tall," Jamie corrected. "This guy, on the other hand," he patted a still-giddy Cory on the back. "You've really improved since the last time we played. Think you'll go out for the J-V team this year? I think Kirkland was just about your age when he started. Eighth grade, right, Kirk?"
His son nodded, but Jamie's youngest brother merely shook his head and parroted the company line. "Father thinks I should focus on school for now. Plus, I already have fencing and ju-jitsu and chess..."
"Translation: Hutchins men don't do team sports. At least not plebian ones like basketball."
"Anyway, now that you and Kirk are moving out, I won't have anyone to practice with."
"There's Uncle Matt," Kirkland pointed out as the three of them walked back towards the house.
"Matt has no game," Jamie and Cory said in near unison.
"We'll come around lots," Kirkland reassured. "Dad's new place doesn't have a court."
"Yeah," Jamie teased his son. "We're really going to be roughing it." Then slung a comforting arm over Cory's shoulder, "We'll all still spend plenty of time together, you just wait and see."
"I don't know, bro," Matt crossed paths with them on the patio, having overheard Jamie's promise. "You know how it is when you have a new kid. No time for anyone or anything else."
Kirkland's head jerked at that, as he looked at Jamie, both curious and accusing. "Are you and Lorna having a baby?"
"Stealing one, is more like it," Matt answered before Jamie could get a word in. "Lori Ann. Oh, wait... You are going to keep her name as Lori Ann, right? Knowing Lorna, she'll want to change that, too, soon as the adoption goes through."
"If you adopt Lori Ann," Cory scrunched up his face as if in the midst of a thorny math problem. "She'll be my niece on two sides. Through you, and then through Jenna."
"Yeah," Matt taunted. "Pretty messed up family tree you're setting up there, Jamie."
Primarily concerned with pulling Kirkland aside so he could offer his version of Matt's inopportune bombshell, Jamie hurried to shut his brother up, snapping, "First of all, if any of us ever stopped to really think about all the ways that we're related to each other, we'd be perennially reaching for a barf bag. Secondly, nothing about Lorna and I adopting Lori Ann is a done deal. And, last, but most certainly not least," Jamie leveled a heated look at Matt. "Nothing about me, Lorna, or Lori Ann is really any of your business. So you can keep your opinions and your wisecracks to yourself."
"Look," unwilling to get into a shoving match in front of the kids, Jamie tried to be the adult one, calmly reasoning, "I know things with Donna haven't worked out the way you would have liked. But that doesn't give you the right to act like a "
"Spare me the understanding big brother act. It just pisses me off more."
"Okay." Jamie gave up. "You're right. That's what I live for, Matt. To piss you off."
"You and Lorna deserve each other. Two, annoying, sanctimonious peas in a pod. God, Jamie, will you pull your head out of Lorna's "
"Matt!" He jerked his head in the wide-eyed boys' direction. "What the hell is your problem?" Then, softening, added, "Please. I want to help. I want to understand."
"How very Mac of you," Matt sneered. "Sorry to disappoint you, Jamie, but you are no Mac Cory. So don't you dare pretend."
"I know that," Jamie agreed. "None of us is. Which, frankly, is a damn shame."
"You don't know the half of it," Matt mumbled, stomping off.
"What?" Spencer barked in response to Grant's knock on his study door.
"It's just me, Dad." He felt as if he should duck and cover before entering. "Nice to see you, too."
"Don't be cute."
"Alright," Grant hesitantly took the chair across from him. "So tell me something, are you ever going to snap out of this nasty mood you've been in, or must I just accept that this is you from now till the end of time?"
"Luckily, that shouldn't be too much longer."
"I'm sorry, Dad," Grant ventured. "I know that Alice Frame "
"Leave her out of it."
"Okay," he agreed and just sat silently for a few moments, until Spencer couldn't take it anymore.
"So. What brings you here? Beyond criticizing my mental state, that is."
"I had a thought this afternoon that I wanted to run by you. I'm thinking of throwing my hat into the ring for Mayor of Bay City. Again."
"Against that District Attorney fellow?"
Spencer leaned back in his chair, thinking. "He's run a damn good campaign so far."
"You should know, you contributed to it."
Spencer's glare suggested Grant might want to get off that subject, and fast. "You'd have to hit him where he's most vulnerable. The absolute mess he made of Cecile's murder trial. Three false arrests, and then the real kill just waltzes in, no thanks to him."
"Plus," Grant, despite promising himself not to get too excited, couldn't help all but rubbing his hands together with glee. "Hamilton's against gay marriage. Sure, he's got some libertarian bullshit rationalization about how government should have no say in legislating marriage, period. But any opponent who can't run with that hypocrisy as a campaign issue is an imbecile."
"And I didn't raise any imbeciles," Spencer noted.
Grant said, "I got to admit, I'm surprised. I didn't expect you to be so supportive. I thought, at best, I was in for a lengthy review of my many previous political failures."
"To what end? Especially when we both know that, ultimately, your failures are my failures."
"Actually, Dad, I wouldn't say we knew that at all."
"Really? You mean I've never mentioned it before?" Spencer wondered innocently. "Must have been an oversight on my part. Now, may I have the honor of writing the first check towards the Grant Harrison for Mayor Fund?"
"She has to be doing it on purpose," Felicia didn't so much tell Lucas as plead with him to confirm her suspicions. "Lorna has to be deliberately misinterpreting everything I say. There's no other explanation for it."
"What happened?" he sighed, already dreading hearing the answer.
"I try to look out for her. I try to give her some advice. And she responds as if I'm out to get her. Like I am trying to make her unhappy."
"She knows how you feel about her and Jamie. That it's all happening too fast, that nobody is looking before they leap. That's bound to cause some friction."
"Oh, this was a lot more than friction. Friction is Lorna and I on a good day."
"Just give it some time, Fanny. Either things will work out and then there'll be no more reason for you to worry, or they'll fall apart on their own and "
"But that's what I'm trying to help her avoid. I don't want to see Lorna hurt again. And certainly not by the likes of Jamie Frame, of all people. That would definitely be the ultimate insult."
Lucas mused, "Would that be one of those helpful tips of yours that Lorna took offense to for no reason?"
Felicia hesitated; growing so serious that Lucas felt his supportive smile dying as if blown away by a particularly harsh wind.
"What is it?" he asked softly, no longer merely dreading the answer, but genuinely afraid to hear it.
"I Every time she gets like this, I can't I can't help thinking that Lorna, she wouldn't be like this if I had gotten the chance to raise her."
"But that's perfectly natural," Lucas exhaled in relief, having prepared for something much, much worse. "Of course you feel like that. And it's most likely true, too. She would be a different person if we'd gotten to raise her ourselves."
"No. You don't understand. That's not all of it. Sometimes, I look at Lorna, and I think I can't stop myself from thinking I think: My daughter wouldn't be like this. This can't possibly be my daughter." Felicia looked at Lucas, standing there silent. She challenged, "Aren't you going to tell me that's perfectly natural, too?"
"I I don't know," he told her honestly. "Probably, maybe it is."
"I fought so hard for her! When she refused to accept us as her parents, I begged her! And I begged you to accept her! I threw a party so I could tell the whole world: Look! Look at my baby!"
"She's not your baby," Lucas said abruptly.
"What?" Felicia cocked her head. "What are you talking about?"
"You and me, Fanny, we spent years looking for our lost baby. We said it again and again, we wanted our baby back. And then we got her. Only she wasn't our baby. She was a beautiful, talented, complicated, troubled, difficult grown woman. We didn't go looking for that. We weren't prepared for that. We got Lorna. Lorna and all that entails. What if, Fanny what if you're still waiting for the baby girl of your dreams? And what if you haven't accepted yet that you are never, ever going to get her?"
"Please go," Spencer told Alice when he found her on his doorstep, insisting that she needed to speak with him immediately.
She refused to budge. Instead, Alice reminded Spencer, "You said to me, months ago, that you were determined not to make a single mistake in our relationship. Sending me away now, without hearing what I have to say, would most very definitely be a mistake."
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