"I didn't mean to upset you with what I said," Lucas came up quietly behind Felicia, who'd been sitting for the past several hours, staring blankly out the window, not moving, not speaking.
"And I never mean to upset Lorna with what I say," she replied dully without turning to look at him. "But here we are."
"You have every right to feel the way you do," he insisted. "You had a terrible injustice done to you. You had your baby stolen and given away to be raised by other people. You were told she was dead. That's not something anyone can ever be expected to get over, no matter how much time has passed."
"Do you feel that way?" Felicia spun around, part challenging, part desperate. "Do you find yourself wishing that Lorna were different? That she was more like the child you expected, instead of the person she... is?"
Lucas hedged, "Lorna is... who she is. You know how I felt about her in the beginning. Obviously, if I were asked then to describe my dream daughter, she wouldn't have fit the bill."
"But you accepted her. Once your mind was made up "
"And you know how long that took. How much time we I wasted."
"Yes, but once you finally did accept her, that was it. You accepted everything about her. The good, the bad...."
"I'm not a writer, Fanny. I didn't have twenty odd years in which to create a complete character in my mind. All I knew was that our child was missing and we had to find her. What she was like... I only hoped that she'd be like you."
"And she is, isn't she?" Felicia stifled a bitter laugh. "In some ways, she's exactly like me."
"She's beautiful," Lucas agreed. "And she's headstrong, and passionate and loyal."
"Loyal," Felicia repeated ironically. "Where was her loyalty to you when she asked "
"She didn't ask," Lucas stressed. "I turned myself in because Jamie was innocent and I was guilty. Please do not put that on Lorna."
"Alright," Felicia changed tactics. "Then let's try this on for size: Where was Lorna's loyalty the last couple of years, when both Jenna and I could feel her pulling away from us, and no matter what we did or how we tried, Lorna just kept putting up wall after wall after wall; until we had absolutely no idea what was going on or what either of us might have done to trigger it."
"The last couple of years?" Lucas managed to choke out guiltily, nurturing a very strong suspicion of what exactly it was that had triggered Lorna's seemingly unmotivated withdrawal from her mother and sister.
"It was ridiculous, Luke. You weren't here, you didn't have to try and make heads or tails of it. Overnight, it was as if she'd become a different person, one who had no use for either Jenna or I. We both knew how touchy she could be, but, for the life of us, neither could figure out what we'd done to deserve this cold shoulder of hers. We called, we e-mailed, we texted. I even went to Chicago to speak to her face-to-face one time. Lorna acted like this was some huge intrusion into her privacy, she couldn't get me out of her apartment fast enough."
"We don't know what might have been going on in her life at the time," Lucas began.
"But, that's just it! Why didn't we know? Why couldn't we know?"
"Because you can't force any kind of relationship, Fanny, much less a mother/daughter one. The fact is, we both have to accept that neither of us will ever be able to have the kind of connection with Lorna we might have had if we'd raised her from the beginning. That kind of closeness won't just happen."
"It did with Jenna," Felicia said quietly. "Jenna was nearly an adult when we met her; she wasn't all that much younger than Lorna. And she even had a mother already; Lorna lost her adoptive parents when she was a child. But Jenna and I, we were close. Right from the beginning. We didn't have to work on our relationship, it was simply there."
"Come on, Fanny, I think you're romanticizing it just a little. We both had our problems with Jenna. Let's not hide behind revisionist history."
"Everything worked out though, in the end. And you know why it worked out ? Because we weren't the only ones who wanted it to. Jenna wanted it. She wanted us to be her parents and she wanted to be our daughter."
"Lorna wants to be our daughter, too."
"She has a funny way of showing it." Felicia hesitated, then, figuring she had nothing more to lose at this point and equally exhausted from keeping the truth to herself, softly confessed, "I didn't tell you everything before. When I said how I'd look at Lorna and think that she couldn't possibly be my daughter. Lately, well, it only happened once, really, but it scared me so much.... There was one instant, I was in the middle of yet another fight with Lorna I think it was right when you were in jail; but frankly there've been so many and I couldn't stop myself from thinking that... that the wrong child of mine had died."
Felicia peered up at Lucas, waiting for his reaction.
He didn't say anything. He merely looked gut-punched, needing to feel around behind him to find a chair he could collapse on. "You didn't mean it..."
"Of course, I didn't mean it. How could I mean... But I thought it. Even if it was only for a split second, I actually thought that..."
"We've all been through so much. It was just a year ago that Carl Carl, of all people! found you and Jenna and Dean locked up in the godforsaken convent. And then Jenna's death, and Lori Ann being so sick, and my coming back... Not to mention what we learned about Donna. And then Cass and Cecile... It's a wonder you can even still function and think at all, much less stop yourself from a momentary, angry impulse."
"I suspect," Felicia came clean. "That's why I've been so obsessed with Lorna and Jamie. I need to prove to myself how much I really do love her. I need to take care of her, to protect her. To make it up to her. Even if she can't understand why I'm doing it."
"Allie?" The name shot out of Gregory's mouth even before his eyes snapped open in a combination of disorientation and genuine surprise that Alice had kept her word and he was indeed awake again.
"I'm right here," Allie reassured, scooting down the length of the bed so he could see her without needing to raise his head. "How do you feel?"
He thought about it, then admitted, "Numb."
"Numb sounds better than screaming in pain," she suggested. "But, you know, maybe that's just me."
He smiled weakly and, with great effort, managed to scoot his arm forward just enough for his fingers to brush hers. "I can't feel your hand," he lamented.
She squeezed his tightly in return. "Doesn't matter. I can still feel yours."
Gregory swallowed hard and told her, "I don't want to die today. Not today."
"Okay," she told him, as if it were the most reasonable request in the world. "Then I won't let you. Not today."
"God forbid I should make yet another mistake in my life," Spencer observed. "They might have to crown me World Champion on the spot."
"Does that mean I can come in?"
He didn't exactly say yes. But he did step aside and allow Alice to pass through the doorway.
Without waiting for an invitation, she headed for the living room, not even bothering to look over her shoulder to check whether Spencer was following.
He was. What choice did he have, after all?
She sat down and waited for him to do the same. He looked at her expectantly, and Alice didn't disappoint. She told him, "I just spent the afternoon with a patient. A boy who is dying much, much too young. Yet one who is facing it with more courage than I have ever faced anything in my life."
"I'm sure that makes two of us," Spencer said.
"It's not a very pleasant sensation, the moment when you finally admit to yourself that everything that went wrong in your life, everything that you once blamed on fate or bad luck or other people, might not have gone wrong at all, if only you'd been a little braver."
"Not everything, surely," Spencer felt drawn into her account in spite of himself. But, then again, when had he ever not felt drawn to her?
"No, not everything. Some things really are just bad luck. But enough is still left over to make you think. For instance, if you'd confronted your wife's restlessness head-on, instead of ignoring it in the hope that it would pass without you having to do anything about it namely admit that you might be the cause of her dissatisfaction would she have ever taken up with Carl? Would she have gotten pregnant with Ryan? Would you have felt compelled to send her away while spending the rest of your life mourning what could have been?"
"Why are we talking about me?" Spencer demanded. "I thought this was supposed to be about you and your epiphany."
"I was making a point."
"Consider it made."
"Not yet," she corrected gently. "I was driving home tonight, thinking about my patient, thinking about the risks he'd taken to live life on his own terms no matter how short it turned out to be. And I realized that I had a choice. I could keep going until I was back in my apartment, where I could shut the door and sit there, alone, safe from the dangers of the big, daunting world. Or I could listen to my heart and do what I really wanted, which was come here and see you and tell you that I was sorry."
"You've done that already," he reminded.
"No. I only started to. You never let me finish. And I permitted you to cut me off. Because, truth be told, I wasn't that eager to make a full confession."
"There's more? I'm not sure I can take it."
"Neither am I."
"Then why oh, right. Like the lion in The Wizard of Oz, you're newly flush with courage."
"I'm trying," she agreed.
"Very well, then. Go on, say your piece. I promise not to stop you, this time."
"You're most kind," Alice couldn't help smiling at his put-upon gruff act.
"Don't you dare make me laugh," Spencer wagged a warning finger in her direction. "I can take anything from you, save that."
"Duly noted." She paused, briefly considering a few various points at which to begin before settling on, "This past Christmas, I went to see Kevin. He wasn't there. Amanda was. We talked. Quite frankly, it was one of the most honest conversations I'd ever had in my life. I told her all about you. How happy you'd made me. How, of all the men I'd ever known, you were the first not to put me on a pedestal. How you didn't seem scared that I would shatter and fall apart at the first piece of bad news... at the first touch. No one has ever made me feel the way you have."
"No one?" Spencer blinked, flabbergasted.
"No one," she repeated firmly, realizing that she was blushing, pleased to note that she wasn't the only one. "I've been in love before. And I would like to believe that those men loved me. But, they didn't just love me, they... embalmed me. They created this idea of who I was and nothing I did could budge them. I'm not complaining, and I'm certainly not casting blame. I could have changed things, I suppose. But, I was too scared. The beauty of being treated like something fragile is that you're protected. You're shielded from bad news or negative emotions. Not indefinitely, of course. Steve did everything he could to keep me from finding out about him and Rachel and Jamie. You know how that turned out. But, for a while there, I was blissfully ignorant. It was my fault as much as theirs, I know that now. Except you didn't play that game. And I loved it. Right up until the part where you called me on my faults and transgressions. Suddenly, not being up on that pedestal wasn't so much fun anymore."
"And yet," Spencer pointed out, although it was more of a question. "You're here."
"I'm here," she confirmed. "I'm here to tell you that you were wrong."
"Ah, in that case, you need to get into a different line. The queue for telling me I was wrong forms right behind my son. And a few hundred other people. Take a number."
"Now are you trying to make me laugh?" Alice wondered.
"Just letting you know this isn't my first time on the hot seat."
"Well, it is mine. So, please, grant me a moment to get my bearings. I came here to tell you that you were wrong when you said I never saw the good in you. I did. It just wasn't the good you were anticipating. You looked at me, and you didn't see someone weak or delicate or in need of protection. You treated me like an equal, like someone who could take care of herself, someone who you could get furious at when I deserved it, someone you could be honest with. You will never know how much that meant to me."
He didn't say anything for a long beat, and then, Spencer offered, "You are, I believe, the first woman to ever extol me for being... myself. I I can't say I'm certain of how to react to that."
"Say thank you," she prompted.
"Thank you, Alice," the words sounded wrenched from the very bottom of his soul. "Thank you...."
"Now. Ask me to stay. So we might talk some more. Or," she took his hand, looking him in the eye. "Are you too scared?"
He shook his head, managing to somehow laugh and groan at the same time. "I may very well be, at that."
"Don't worry," she reassured. "I'll walk you through it."
"I'm not the only one getting the irony here, though, right, Dad?" Kirkland double-checked following Jamie's attempt at diffusing Matt's bombshell. "Two sets of parents fighting over a kid. Only in this case, you're the Grant."
"I'm the Grant?" Jamie repeated, thrown by the comparison.
"Yeah. Your intentions might be good, but you're kind of swooping in out of nowhere, taking everyone by surprise and causing the villagers to scatter in terror."
"This isn't precisely out of nowhere. We haven't been hiding out in the tropics, playing dead. Lorna wanted to adopt Lori Ann from the beginning."
"Lorna. Not you," Kirkland noted. "Look, I like Lorna, she seems cool, she makes you happy, but...honestly, would adopting Lori Ann have even have crossed your mind without her pushing for it?"
"Obviously not. But our," Jamie chose his pronouns deliberately, "Interest in Lori Ann is in doing what we think is best for her."
"Staying with her family would be best for her," Kirkland asserted with the authority of someone who'd given the issue more thought than any sixteen-year-old boy should ever have to. "Okay, so Cass is in jail and Frankie is by herself. But you raised Steven and me by yourself, and we're borderline normal. Why can't you and Lorna leave Lori Ann with her sister and her mom, and the two of you just be back up, the way Aunt Marley was for us?"
"That's under discussion, too," Jamie quickly said. "Nothing about this is a done deal yet. Not by a long shot."
"Charlie overheard Frankie and Felicia brainstorming ways to stop you and Lorna." Kirkland hesitated. "Doesn't it tell you something when Lorna's own mom is helping Frankie out instead of you guys? Come on, Dad. You know this is all kinds of wrong. Charlie's already lost Cass and Lila and Jasmine. She shouldn't have to lose Lori Ann, too. And it's not as if Frankie's running off, like some people, to the tropics or anywhere. She wants to keep on being Lori Ann's mom. This isn't like... me."
"You're right. I hear you, son, I do. But "
"And you and Lorna," Kirkland continued; difficult to start, equally difficult to stop, the boy was classic thermodynamics in action. "You haven't been together that long. And now we're moving and... Can't a guy have a little time to stop his head spinning before you two throw another kid into the mix? I mean I know, well everybody knows, that you and Lorna want to have a baby "
"And I'm cool with that, honest. But I thought I'd at least have nine months to get used to the idea. Adopting Lori Ann... It's like you're trying to set a land speed record for starting a new family. I know, I know," Kirkland quickly added. "I'm your family, too. I'm part of whatever it is you and Lorna have going. But, it's too much, too fast, Dad. I'm tough. But, truth? Sometimes it'd be nice to have a breather between the... news."
Too much, too fast, Jamie thought as he absorbed Kirkland's words and overwhelmed face. He felt a deluge of guilt and regret flood through him so hard it nearly knocked him off the couch.
"You're right," Jamie agreed in a voice more upbeat than he actually felt, considering what he was about to propose. "Now, don't take this as my trying to get rid of you or bribe you or deflect you or anything; I am purely suggesting it as a mini-breather from... everything. How would you feel about spending the next couple of days at Grant's?"
Kirkland's eyebrows shot up, surprise and delight mixing with suspicion and concern. "Uh.... Yeah... Sure. That'd be... not bad," he said slowly. "But... why?"
"Because you're right, you need a break from me and Lorna, and all the upheaval we've dumped on you these past few weeks. Not to mention, the new house is a mess. We barely have furniture; Though not for Lorna's want of Internet shopping. I think they're about to name a FedEx plane after her... You've been wanting to spend more time with Grant. Now is perfect. I know a long weekend away won't make what's going on here seem any less crazy, but it'll give you a chance to recharge your batteries, and me a shot at making the situation a little less messy."
"I was planning to go over there tomorrow anyway, Grant has something to talk to me about. I guess I could just stay for a while. I Are you sure you're okay with this?"
"Working on it," Jamie grinned. "Just promise you'll come back in one piece."
"I think I can swing that." Kirkland looked so happy at the prospect, it made Jamie feel doubly guilty for already starting to regret his suggestion.
"No cigars, now."
"Aw, Dad.... Then what am I supposed to have with my brandy?"
Allie lay on the bed, facing Gregory, watching him drift in and out of consciousness, as a result of Alice's pain medication. She clutched his hand tightly, so that even when he couldn't open his eyes or call out to her, he still knew that she was there.
"What do you think happens... after?" Gregory murmured at one point.
"No clue," she confessed.
"Funny," he mused sleepily. "We both know so many people everybody thought were dead, but then they came back."
"Without any helpful information," Allie rolled her eyes. "Stupid, useless dead people."
"But they weren't really dead," Gregory said.
"I'm scared," he admitted.
"Stay with me. Please. Promise. Stay until..."
"I promise," Allie curled up against him. "I won't leave you alone."
"Frankie?" Cass leapt out of his visitors' room chair at the first sight of his wife, her face ashen, her eyes bloodshot and ringed with dark circles. "What the hell happened? Did something happen to one of the girls?"
"They're fine," she told him dully. "The girls are both fine. They're with Felicia."
"Then why You look like "
"Hell," she finished for him. "I feel even worse."
"Tell me what's wrong," he sat down, gesturing for her to do the same.
"I went to see Lorna. I thought maybe the two of us could settle this issue regarding Lori Ann on our own, no courts, no lawsuits, just family."
"What did she do to you?"
"She she... provoked me. It wasn't all her fault. I let her. I shouldn't have, but I did. She was just so... she hates you, Cass. She hates us."
"What else is new?"
"No. This is different. We're not talking her usual, garden-variety, petty jealousy about how close you and Felicia are, or even about us adopting Lori Ann. She blames you for what Jamie and Lucas went through."
"Okay. Fine. Whatever. Lorna is Lorna. Nothing you've said so far accounts for you being this upset. You're a pro at handling toxic people. I know there is nothing on earth Lorna Devon could do that would make you this upset. So what was it really?"
"You're right," Frankie nodded. "You are absolutely right. This isn't about what Lorna did. This is about what I did in return."
"What, Frankie?" he pleaded. "Tell me."
"I threatened her. I told her, more or less explicitly, that if she persisted with taking us to court over Lori Ann, I would expose Jamie's past with Cecile, and reveal what really drove him to have a breakdown all those years ago."
"But that's great," Cass enthused, confused about why she seemed so guilt-stricken. "That's perfect. Good job, Frankie. I couldn't have done it better myself."
"What?" she looked at him, stunned.
"That's exactly how it's done. That's how you play hardball. Let Lorna and Jamie see that this could end up much, much worse for them than for us. That should make her think twice about trying to take our daughter away."
"No... Cass.... No! I was there. I saw Jamie in the hospital. I listened to him ripping himself to shreds for months. He was decimated. He was destroyed. He'd tried to kill himself over it. And you and I both know what Cecile is capable of. We realize Jamie wasn't to blame."
"Cecile," Cass pointed out. "Is the reason we stand to lose Lori Ann in the first place. Don't you think it's only fair not to mention infinitely poetic that another criminal act of hers should be the means for us keeping her?"
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