"Save your breath, Donna," Marley informed her mother coldly. "It doesn't matter what your arrangement might be, I know I don't want it."
"Did you or did you not stipulate that you would lift your banishment of me once I had proven myself sufficiently remorseful?"
"And you interpreted that to mean I wanted you to launch a disingenuous, though I will grant you Machiavellian media campaign?"
"What makes you think I wasn't telling the truth?"
"I am truly sorry, Marley, for my role in Jenna's death. If I could go back in time and make better decisions to prevent this tragedy, I would. But, unfortunately, that isn't an option. For any of us. All I can currently do in order to atone for my mistakes is make a full confession to those I've wronged and accept what consequences may come. You, better than most, ought to know that, under certain circumstances, the court of public opinion may prove a great deal more brutal than one of law."
"So, in your mind, Felicia and Lucas saying mean things about you is equivalent to a twenty year prison sentence?"
"This wasn't about Felicia and Lucas," Grant finally spoke up, having taken his time to go over every well-orchestrated beat of Donna's interview, feeling like he finally had a good grasp on her motivations. "This was about Carl. You wanted it on the record that if anything were to happen to you, your ex-husband should be the primary suspect."
Donna smiled, pleased at being understood and appreciated... for a change. "Carl won't be able to so much as swish his greasy ponytail in my direction without someone wondering why."
"On the flip side," Grant went on. "If any of his former associates wish to discipline you for talking out of school and revealing the existence of their Canadian operation, that's where the precautions come in...."
"Being married to Carl, I met the most fascinating people. And made sure to remember names, faces, dates...."
"Where the bodies are buried and the secret files are kept," Grant finished for her. "All catalogued in a document that is being kept in a safe place until something suspicious or unforeseen happens to you or your loved ones. At which point "
"I expose them all. Carl. His associates," Donna stressed the latter with a pointed look Grant's way. "It's in everyone's best interests that I remain at the peak of health."
"But, why drag Grant into it?" Marley demanded. Then answered her own question, ashamed it had taken her this long to figure it out. "If anything happens to you now, after you've said Grant is looking out for you, he starts looking guilty, too. Or, at least, vaguely suspicious."
"Two adjectives political candidates prefer to avoid as a rule," Donna confirmed.
Marley merely shook her head in wonder. "So, let me get this straight: You're proud of what you've just done? Poured salt into Felicia, Lucas' and Carl's wounds, given Lori Ann more horrible family history to live down not to mention Steven, Kirkland, Bridget and Michele; but, at least they're used to it by now and, oh, last but not least, more or less blackmailed my... Grant, and, by extension, his father."
"What I've done," Donna corrected in a tone that with anyone else might have come off as condescending, but, in her case, was merely par for the course. "Is apologize for my actions while simultaneously putting my enemies on notice. Which, in turn, effectively took the target off my and yours and Grant's, and Steven and Kirkland and Bridget and Michele's heads. I was trying to repair our family!"
"By blackmailing your way back into it?"
"By showing that I can still be useful. If not to you, then at least to your..." Donna's eyes danced mischievously, confirming that she hadn't missed, or failed to recognize the meaning of, Marley's slip. "Grant." She turned to face him, proclaiming, "I can be a major asset to your campaign."
"How do you figure?" he practically laughed out loud. But that might have been construed as rude.
"Unlike you, I've spent the past ten years in Bay City. I have connections. I know the important people. I know the local issues and who stands where on what. I can help you behind the scenes as an adviser, while, at the same time, playing the reformed social experiment mascot for the cameras. Embracing the beleaguered parent of the woman you are currently dating can only further your reputation."
"In other words," Marley summarized. "She's offering you the mother-in-law vote."
"Not only that," Donna played her final card. "You saw the look on Kirkland's face earlier as he took the girls upstairs. I'm sure your son would be thrilled if we three could finally bury the hatchet and move on. He is such a sensitive young man."
"Blackmail, insults, emotional manipulation," Marley was most definitely keeping score. "Is there nothing you won't resort to in order to get your way?"
"When it comes to what's best for my family?" Donna offered her best, public smile. The one that had so discomfited Matt when he saw it on TV. "No."
"So Jen wouldn't take Hamilton's deal, either?" Lila straddled Kevin's back as he lay face down on the bed, her fingers doggedly but futilely digging into the knotted muscles bunched up around his neck and shoulders.
"No," Kevin mumbled into the pillow. "I knew she wouldn't. Those kids vowed to stick together, and if there's one thing I know about Jen, she will never default on a promise."
"Because you raised your little girl right."
"I wonder," he sighed, rolling over so that he was now looking up at Lila. "You have no idea how badly I wanted her to say yes. How much I want to fix this for her. All Jen has to do is tell the truth, and I can make it all go away. That's my job as her father."
"But not as her lawyer? Or, rather," Lila guessed. "Not as the lawyer for all them kids."
Kevin nodded, exhausted, pulling Lila down to lie next to him, her head tucked beneath his chin. "As Allie and Steven's lawyer, too GQ and Sarah have decided to seek outside counsel, did I tell you that? as lawyer for the three of them, I have to do what's best for everyone."
"Even if what's best for Allie and Steven isn't best for Jen?"
"Yeah..." he said softly. "Even if."
"You know," Lila ventured tentatively. "It seems to me like, in trying to be all-across the board fair, you're actually doing a disservice to everybody."
Kevin shifted, propping himself up one arm, eyes narrowing. "How's that?"
"Well, by bending over backwards to be fair to Allie and Steven, you might be hurting Jen. That's the obvious one. On the other hand, you can't really say you're giving 100 percent to Allie and Steven, since doing that would mean you advising them to "
"Sell out my own daughter," Kevin finished and groaned, flopping back down on the bed. "Damn you, Lila, why do you have to be so smart?"
"Not smart," she corrected. "Sensible. Gets you further in the long run, if you ask me."
He smiled warily. "You're right. Of course, you're right. I'm short-changing them all. But, what am I supposed to do about it?"
"You could," Lila tread even more carefully now, realizing that one wrong word, and it would all blow up in her face. And she couldn't do that to Rachel. Not after she'd so carefully coached Lila through the whole thing. "You could bow out of representing Allie and Steven. Just focus on Jen. Might be best for all concerned."
"I don't know... They're counting on me. A new lawyer would need time to get up to speed and Steven's got an appointment with Hamilton first thing tomorrow morning. I can't just leave him high and dry. Even for Jen's sake."
"Think about it, though," Lila suggested. "It kills me to see you so torn up over this."
"It's not only this," Kevin admitted. "Well, not directly, anyway. I went to visit your ex-husband the other day...."
"Cass?" In spite of everything that'd happened between them, Lila couldn't help fretting. "How is he?"
"Well, judging by the conversation we had, I'd say he's.... still Cass. I came to ask him for a favor. Trying to decide now if the terms he set are doable...."
"Was it concerning Jen?" Lila asked.
Kevin nodded. "Yeah."
"Then I don't understand what you're wavering about. If it were my baby in trouble, I'd make a deal with the devil himself."
The next morning, Jamie's quick shower all at once promised to become a great deal longer, not to mention infinitely more interesting, when Lorna unexpectedly opened the door and slipped inside with him.
"I know you have to get to the hospital," she began.
"What hospital?" Jamie asked innocently, pulling her to him, one arm on Lorna's wrist, the other sliding around her waist. "I've got all the time in the world."
"Good." She stood on the tips of her toes, clutching Jamie's slick shoulders for support, allowing him to kiss her once... okay, twice... three times would definitely be the limit, before getting down to business. "Then we can talk about what happened here the other night with Matt."
Jamie groaned, letting go of Lorna and slumping, dejected, against the wall, the shower's spray hammering noisily between them like a sword. "Now I know how you felt the time I mentioned your mother while we were "
"Yes. Turnabout/fair play, yadda, yadda, yadda. But, if I recall correctly, you brought her up with the best on intentions."
"Which ended, I believe, with the two of you getting into yet another fight."
"I know what Matt said is still bothering you. Just because, instead of sulking and refusing to talk, you came home and swept me off to bed without making a sound..."
"I made a sound!" Jamie defended. "Several! All appropriate to the situation."
"Pleasant though it may have been, that still doesn't qualify as a real conversation in my book." Lorna threw up an arm to block Jamie's attempt at escape as he reached for the glass door. "I think I've been very good about not pushing you on this. But, enough is enough. I am done standing aside and watching you repress your way into a bleeding ulcer. I thought we agreed that this relationship wasn't going to be a rehash of the same old patterns that went and ruined everything before. We were going to be honest with each other, even when it wasn't easy. Especially when it wasn't easy."
"We're in a shower, Lorna. Not a confessional."
"Good. Because I believe the church frowns on naked confessions. Well, it does now, anyway. Please talk to me, Jamie. Otherwise I'm getting all pruned up for nothing."
He had to smile at that, shaking his head, knowing he had no chance of winning this or any other argument, and so gamely offering, "Okay. Maybe I am still mad at Matt. I have a right to be. The guy was hitting on my girlfriend in my house!"
"Not any guy," Lorna said softly. "Your brother."
"Oh, that. I wasn't kidding. I really do have experience with my own family members and that particular brand of betrayal."
"I also saw your face when Matt mentioned Cecile."
Jamie's smile died as abruptly as it had flared, the same pain she'd glimpsed there previously flickering afresh in his eyes.
"He didn't know what he was saying," Jamie willed himself back into a neutral expression. "Lucky hit, that's all. Yeah, it made me angry. But, I'm over it."
"You once told me," Lorna opened the door, reaching for a towel, no longer in the mood for games or witty banter. "That you trusted me with everything there was to you. I was already half in love. But, that was when I fell the rest of the distance, on the spot. I believed you then, Jamie. I'm sorry, I don't believe you now."
Felicia laughed. She'd never imagined that under these circumstances, the day following Donna's travesty of a television appearance, while looking at Cass through bullet-proof glass, she might ever find something to laugh about. And yet she did.
"Oh, that's perfect!" Felicia clasped her hands together and tucked them under her chin, smiling. "Absolutely perfect. After what Fowler put us through, you're not just forcing him to help us keep Lori Ann, but using his own daughter to do it? I love it. It's brilliant. Let's see how the S.O.B. likes getting a taste of his own medicine! I only wish I could have seen his face when you laid it all out."
"He hasn't said yes, yet," Cass cautioned.
"Oh, he will. He knows you're the best lawyer in Bay City, that's why he came crawling. Fowler realizes you're a better attorney from behind bars than he'll ever be walking free. And on the heels of his snark about you not being on top of your game, too! I swear, it just gets better and better!"
"I was bluffing," Cass admitted. "To be honest, I'm not really sure what he can do at this point. He's no longer Lori Ann's guardian. I guess I just wanted to watch him twist in the wind for a change."
"Let Fowler lose sleep over it," Felicia dismissed with a wave. "Not you."
"Felicia," Cass reminded. "We both know how sharks like him operate. In order for Kevin to neutralize Lorna and Jamie's custody petition, he might have to go after them personally. It won't be pleasant for anyone."
Felicia sighed, shaking her head. "I knew this would happen. I tried to warn her. I knew that if Lorna got involved with Jamie, she'd end up hurt. He's got a hell of a track record in that respect. She refused to listen, of course. Why heed your mother, after all? What could I know? I've only been through this before, with Jamie and Lisa."
Cass confirmed, "I was telling Frankie the other day, that in cases like these, you can't be tentative. You have to come out with all your guns blazing, or the opposition will eat you alive."
"What did Frankie have to say to that?"
"I'm sure you can imagine."
"Frankie is a good, decent, kind, moral person. I admire her greatly." Felicia's eyes locked with Cass'. "Even when I can't agree with her."
He nodded, not saying a word, both of them making themselves perfectly clear.
Felicia changed the subject. "Did you catch Donna's command performance on TV yesterday?"
"Frankie stopped by to tell me about it afterwards. Are you alright?"
"Not even a little bit. If I could have reached through the screen and strangled her with my bare hands, I would have."
"Donna and I were friends, once upon a time," Cass recalled. "But, I have to admit, for the life of me, I can not figure out what she thinks she's doing."
"She's trying to rehabilitate her image. Get back into Bay City society's good graces. Become the belle of the ball again, that's all that ever really mattered to her. She thinks she can make the world forget that she kidnapped and killed my daughter. She thinks she can make herself look like just another victim of Carl's, maybe even pick up some extra sympathy along the way. Not on my watch, Cass. And over my dead body."
"I'm surprised," Kevin told Steven as they waited outside of Chase Hamilton's office. "I thought I'd see your dad here."
"I didn't tell him about it," Steven admitted, staring at a spot someplace to the left of Kevin's ear. "He wouldn't have been able to come in for the questioning with us anyway, right? So, why waste his time, or get him all upset?"
"He might have wanted to be here just as a show of support."
"Yeah, well, I'm fine. Dad always makes a bigger deal of things than they really are."
Kevin shrugged, unconvinced, but blocked from pursuing the issue further by an assistant ushering him and Steven into the District Attorney's office.
"So what have you got for us today, Mr. Hamilton?" Kevin asked mock-jovially. "Truly, it's been a privilege watching you work. Who knew there were so many ways in which to pose a question, and still get shut down every single time?"
"Do you see any fat ladies around here, Mr. Fowler? Hear any singing?"
"I suspect they're being drowned out by the babbling of a gradually more and more desperate D.A. Why are we even here again? We both know you've got no case. Gregory Hudson was a legal adult who made a choice to refuse medical treatment. You can't turn that into a crime."
"Humor me," Chase said. "Gregory's autopsy is scheduled to come in from the coroner today. He promised me something very interesting.... I'm looking forward to it."
Kevin's eyes narrowed. "What?"
Chase made a big show of lifting various files from his desk, peeking under them. "Alas, I don't seem to have your request for discovery here."
"You know you'll have to let me see it eventually."
"Eventually is a very long time. So is seven years in prison," Chase reminded Steven.
"He'll never get seven years," Kevin reiterated to his client. "If he thought he could, he'd have filed those charges initially."
"That was before I knew about the autopsy..."
"Would you get on with it!" Kevin snapped. "Either tell us what you've got, or admit you're bluffing and let us out of here."
"I'm not bluffing." Chase told Steven, "I know you're not a stupid young man, so I am going to get right to the point. You don't need this in your life. You have other things going on. I hear your research is something pretty special. And nearly done. Do you really want to take a couple years off, risk missing your window of opportunity? Risk someone else beating you to the punch? Someone younger? Someone smarter?"
"The younger is a possibility," Steven said, making clear what also wasn't.
Chase proffered, "I'm sure Kevin has told you that this could drag on for months, maybe even years. Can you really afford to be distracted for that long? Even if your intrepid attorney does temporarily keep you out of prison by filing appeal after appeal, how much of your brain-power do you want drained away by this? Do you really care to continue dealing with it over and over again, answering the same questions, constantly returning to court, facing the press and your colleagues and your family.... I can make this go away, Steven. I can remove this from your life so you do not have to keep dealing with it. Just tell me everything you know about what Allie and the rest of them planned, and you're done. You're back in the computer lab. No one will ever bother you again."
"When I walked in on you and Matt the other night," Jamie began, slipping on a robe and drying his hair with a towel before tossing it aside. He sat down next to Lorna on their bed, reaching out to stroke her face, taking comfort from how she eagerly leaned into him, how she didn't pull away. "And I realized what Matt was doing, my first thought wasn't: I could kill him. I should kill him. My first thought was: Again?"
"Oh, Jamie, I'm so sorry. I never should have let it get as far as "
He held up a hand, cutting her off, gesturing for her to let him finish. "I've had a lot of time to think about what happened with Dennis and Marley. And the conclusion I came up with was yes, Dennis was a dick how could he not be, in the end, with Iris for a mother? but, back then, I also had a tendency to act like "
"An arrogant dink?" Lorna pinpointed. Then, off Jamie's look, defended, "I heard rumors. I didn't really know you well enough to form an opinion one way or another."
"I could be a bullying, braying, self-righteous ass on occasion," Jamie agreed. "But, I also like to think that I've matured since then. That I've evolved into a man somewhat less likely to deserve being betrayed by his cousin and best friend."
"Or his brother."
"I don't remember what I said to Matt, to be honest. All I know was, the whole time we were arguing, the only thing that kept going around and around in my mind was: What the hell did I ever do to warrant.... " Jamie hesitated, momentarily closing his eyes, swallowing hard. "And then he brought up Cecile..."
"And you thought you'd gotten an answer to your question." Lorna moved closer, trying to take Jamie in her arms. He drew away. Not too far. But far enough. "No," Lorna said coolly, reaching out to scoop up his hand, making it clear that any sort of withdrawal, physical, emotional, mental wasn't an option between them. "Don't do this. Don't do it to yourself, and don't you do it to me. Karma may be a bitch, Jamie, but so was Cecile. And so," she reminded defiantly. "Am I. Next time you start feeling her breathing down your neck or whispering in your ear that you don't deserve to be happy, that you're doomed to spend the rest of your life paying for what she did to you, I want you to hit back with one thought and one thought only."
"What's that?" Jamie was both desperate and terrified to find out.
"Lorna can take her."
He didn't know whether to laugh or cry. He compromised simply by saying, "You are amazing."
"I almost lost one man to a dead woman he actually loved. No way am I losing another to one he hated."
"I was afraid to fight with you," Jamie rushed his confession, knowing that if he didn't get it all out immediately, the moment might be lost.
"What?" It seemed like a non sequitur. "What are you talking about?"
"Do you remember what you said the first time we made love? That it wouldn't always be this perfect? I thought, as long as things were going great, well, great! But, I was terrified... considering how on the edge I was, that our talking about the other night would lead to a fight... I don't mean some run-of-the-mill difference of opinion or a trivial disagreement... a real fight. Things would escalate... And you would throw Cecile right back in my face. And that would be that."
"That's why you didn't want to discuss what Matt said?"
"Yeah," he admitted. "I wished it would just go away."
"You're an idiot."
"I've been waiting for you to figure that out."
"Okay, first of all, you picked the wrong woman to fall in love with if you never want to fight. We're going to fight, Jamie. Then we're going to make up, and laugh and have great sex and move on. And second of all, I will never, ever use your past against you. I don't care how mad I get. For instance, right now, I'm pretty damn mad."
"But, I will never bring up Cecile, or Lisa, or Vicky or Marley or Kelsey or Stacey or Blaine or Nicole or M.J. or ... what was the married one's name?"
"Well, okay, maybe her. That whole affair wasn't very well thought out."
"I love you," Jamie said.
"You'd better," Lorna agreed.
"No," Rachel growled, slamming the door in Donna's face and leaving her standing on her front porch.
"Really, Rachel," Donna sighed dramatically. "I'd have expected your mother or, at the very least, Mac to have taught you better manners than this. Besides, I'm not here to see you. Is Carl available by any chance?"
"What's the matter? Is your e-mail down? Seemed to be working fine last night."
"Ah, I gather you and Carl both received my missive on time?"
Rachel couldn't take it anymore. She opened the door, the better to stare Donna down as she seethed, "Are you utterly and completely shameless, or merely deluded? Do you honestly think Carl has any interest in laying eyes on you today? Or ever again?"
"Carl's desires are none of my concern. They haven't been for quite some time. He and I have business to discuss, and I'd prefer to do it face to face, so that there might be no misunderstanding on either of our parts. Now, be a dear, and snap his leash, blow a whistle, do whatever it is that you do to get him to come heel by your side...."
"Not necessary," Carl seemingly materialized behind Rachel, courteously moving his wife aside to address Donna directly. "Like any purebred bloodhound, I can smell a malodorous bitch from miles away."
"What a charming metaphor," Donna blew by them both, choosing to interpret Carl's insult as an invitation. A few feet into the foyer, she turned to ask her ex-husband, "Would you be so kind as to shuffle your prehistoric mortal coil close enough for me to see the cataract-infested whites of your eyes? I haven't got all day, and I'd prefer to get right to the point."
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|