Grant had to admit, despite everything that lead up to it, most crushingly the scene with Sarah earlier, he was, without a doubt, enjoying bringing Donna up to speed regarding Grant and Marley’s whirlwind nuptials.
“You’re…” Donna appeared unable to complete the sentence, swallowing hard as if struck by a sudden bout of nausea. Followed by aphasia. Followed by amnesia.
“Married,” Grant took particular glee in prompting. “Your daughter and I are married. May I start calling you Mom?”
She gagged on the possibility. “How the hell did you manage to maneuver that?”
“Actually, it was Marley’s idea,” Grant told her the God’s honest truth. “She missed me while at the hospital. She wanted to make sure we were never separated again. Isn’t that sweet?”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Ask her yourself.”
“Why isn’t she here?” Donna demanded. “What have you done with her? What kind of game is this? This is exactly like Victoria all over again, isn’t it? You’ve taken advantage of Marley’s weakened state to sequester her somewhere against her will – “
“Marley isn’t here,” the more hysterical Donna became, the calmer Grant grew. “Because she wasn’t in the mood to face your histrionics. And she didn’t want to startle the girls. She asked me to break the news to you first, give you some time to get used to the idea, then, once you’ve stopped reaching for the smelling salts, we’ll tell Michele and Bridget. The last thing Marley needs her first day out of the hospital – “
“Marley’s been released?”
“She signed herself in, she can sign herself out.”
“What do her doctors think?”
“She has their unanimous approval. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but Marley has been issued a clean bill of mental health.”
“How dare you imply I don’t want her to get well!”
“A weak and vulnerable Marley is easier for you to keep under your thumb. Isn’t that straight out of the Reginald Love playbook? Torment your child into a mental hospital, and they won’t get in the way of your own plans?”
“You son of a bitch!”
“This is it, Donna,” Grant warned her menacingly. “Your days of playing Marley like a violin are over. I’m looking after her now.”
“You mean you’re the one pulling her strings.”
“No.” Grant shook his head. “She’s better. Marley is genuinely better. I may have cursed Jamie and Lorna for forcing her into that place but, I have to admit, it did her a world of good. She finally understands who she is and what she wants.”
“You, I presume?”
“Yes,” he said simply.
“And how much did that little change of heart cost you? A research grant? A hospital wing? An endowment?”
“She came to the realization all on her own,” Grant sounded as surprised as Donna felt. “She promises things will be different now.”
“And you believe her?” Having sensed a sliver of vulnerability, Donna pounced, intending to wedge the knick wide open.
“I want to,” Grant swore.
“She’s made promises to you before, hasn’t she?”
“She was – she was less… stable then. Under a lot of pressure. Listening to the wrong advice. Mainly from you.”
“You think I’m the reason Marley was never able to commit herself to you fully before?” Now it was Donna’s turn to start enjoying the turn in conversation, as Grant was the one who squirmed. “Not Jamie, not the ghost of Victoria, not her own common sense? Me?”
“You’re her mother. Of course you know how to push Marley’s buttons. You programmed the board.”
“She doesn’t love you, Grant.”
“Again, Donna, why don’t you ask Marley about that?”
“No,” she suggested, almost sympathetically. “Why don’t you?”
“I’d ask about your day,” Lorna advised Jamie as he dragged himself through the door, all but collapsing on the couch. “But you look like the last thing you want to do is relive it.”
“Tell me about yours first,” Jamie suggested, opening his arms so Lorna could curl up next to him.
She did as be bade, resting her head on his shoulder and relaying, “Oh, you know, the usual: Saved several Fortune 500 companies from being sued, kept Matt from putting his electronic foot in his virtual mouth, got Devon to at least dip her hands, if not quite her tongue yet, in a plate of mashed carrots, and continued gestating a new human being.”
She tilted her chin. “Feeling threatened?”
“By you? I only wake up every morning wondering if this is the day you finally realize you can do better.”
“And then you realize, “nah…” roll over and go back to sleep?”
“Yeah,” Jamie dead-panned. “That’s exactly it.”
She craned her neck to kiss him. “What’s happened now?”
He sighed. “Well, to start with, Cass and Frankie are suing Kirkland on Charlie’s behalf.”
“The official reason is their insurance company is forcing them to.”
“You don’t believe it?”
He shrugged. “I just wish they’d come to me first, tried to work things out without getting the cops and the courts involved. Kirkland has enough on his plate without being cross-examined and deposed. Poor kid’s barely had a chance to take a breath lately. I was hoping maybe we could make it to his eighteenth birthday without any more drama.”
“Well, you know Winthrop & Winthrop. They live for drama. Preferably the costume kind. Don’t tell me Cass isn’t just a little too comfortable in all those outfits of his. He and my mother…” Lorna dropped the train of thought as if touching something hot.
“Speaking of mothers,” Jamie picked up her hint to change subjects. “Mine has asked Carl to move out.”
Lorna popped up to a full sitting position. “For real?”
“So she says. Though not for good. It’s supposed to be an olive branch. Evidence that she’s willing to meet Amanda, Matt and I halfway in putting the family back together.”
“Back together… with Carl.”
“Exactly.” Jamie pulled Lorna to resume resting against his chest, musing, “She’s trying. I’ll give her credit for that; she is honestly and genuinely trying. It breaks my heart to realize how much. I’ve never been able to stand seeing her hurt. From the time I was a little boy – she was upset so much of the time while I was a little boy. I used to think it was my fault. It wasn’t then. It is now.”
“So what do you want to do?” Lorna asked neutrally.
“I know what I want to do. The same thing I’ve wanted since I was old enough to know the word. I want to make my mom happy again. I want to tell her everything is fine, apology accepted, let’s all go back to normal. Except that…”
“Except that… it’s not.” He closed his eyes, pained, before opening them again to confess, “I was listening to her today, listening to her tell us how much she loved us, and how she wanted to make things better between us… Except the entire time she was speaking, I couldn’t shake the feeling that she doesn’t… she still doesn’t… Mom doesn’t really understand why Amanda, Matt and I are so upset.”
“I wish I were. Mom is treating this like it’s a belated hissy fit in response to her and Carl’s marriage – though I understand Amanda and Matt were plenty vocal on the first go-around – and not a genuine fear on our parts about what Carl is truly capable of. She keeps coming back to the notion that Carl, Spencer, and Lucas were all in on the plan to bring down the compound, so why are we singling out Carl for condemnation?”
“How about because Spencer is dead? That’s a good one.”
“Spencer is dead because of Carl,” Jamie clarified. “The three of them were working together, and then Carl deliberately fed Jeanne information to incriminate Spencer. They were supposed to be partners, except Carl flung Spencer under a bus without a second thought in order to protect himself. He wasn’t overly concerned about Kirkland being collateral damage either. That’s the part that terrifies me. That Mom can’t see the danger in it. Yesterday is was Spencer and Kirkland. Who will it be tomorrow?”
Cautiously, Lorna voiced, “I noticed you left out Lucas’ role in the equation.”
Jamie hesitated, then reminded, “I told you before. He’s your dad. You handle him as you see fit. I won’t get involved.”
“My father,” Lorna said. “Was willing to take the blame for Cecile’s murder so that you wouldn’t have to go to jail and we could be together. We both owe him for that. He was even going to keep Cass out of it, for my mother’s sake. Hell, the only reason Lucas worked for the compound to begin with was to protect Jenna from Carl. My father is not the sort of person who makes others pay off his debts.”
“Okay,” Jamie agreed, committed to keeping the peace on this particular subject.
“So what are you going to do about Rachel?” Lorna wondered.
“Take it day by day, see how things go…”
“I envy you,” Lorna admitted. “I know how much you’re hurting about this. But, at least you have a clear objective in mind. You know what you need Rachel to do in order to make things better between you two. There’s hope that it could still happen. Especially now, when she’s gone ahead and taken the first step.”
“As opposed to you and Felicia,” Jamie guessed.
Lorna nodded. “I don’t think there’s anything that could fix the two of us...”
“Offense!” The little boy with the blond hair and the football in his hands who only went up to Kevin’s knees, charged past Amanda, despite being urged to “Say hello to the lady, Ike,” ducking his head and looking determined to complete the tackle right there in the middle of his group home’s playroom.
“Defense!” Kevin responded, grabbing Ike at the last minute under both arms and flipping him upside down over Kevin’s shoulder, triggering much appreciative giggling. “Where’s Ike?” Kevin spun around in a circle. “Where did he go? He was just here, I saw him!”
Amanda watched the scene silently. And wished she could find it more enchanting. She did. To a point. It was obvious Kevin loved kids, loved being around them, loved making them laugh. It was obvious he deserved to have as many as he wanted, including this little boy. The question was, where did Amanda fit in?
“Time out, dude,” Kevin spun Ike back upright, bringing him over to where Amanda was standing, unsure what was expected of her. “I want you to meet somebody. This is Amanda.”
“Amanda Panda?” Ike asked, breaking into another peal of laughter.
She looked to Kevin for a clue as to how to answer.
“Just Amanda,” Kevin advised, grasping her discomfort. “Shake hands, pal.”
Ike stuck a palm forward. Amanda took it. It was sticky.
“Helllloooo,” Ike intoned, lips pursed and exhaling a kernel of oatmeal to stick to the front of Amanda’s Chanel jacket. Kevin effortlessly reached to flick it away. The stain still showed.
“Hi,” she said. “Your friend Kevin has told me a lot about you.”
“I have Down’s Syndrome!” Ike announced with the same enthusiasm he’d invoked for his football drill and the food-strewn spooky greeting.
“Oh,” Amanda startled, not sure how she was supposed to react to that, either.
“I – ”
“Except I don’t know what capable means,” he whispered.
Amanda offered, “It means – “
“I have a hole in my heart.”
“Oh. Yes… I know…”
“Kevin is going to fix it.”
“Actually,” Kevin interrupted. “A friend of Amanda’s is going to fix it.”
“He’s a very good doctor,” Amanda said. “He’ll make you feel all better.”
“Does he give shots?”
Another stumper. “I think he has to sometimes…”
“Shots make me healthy!”
“Yes, they do.”
Ike told Kevin, “Put me down now.”
The command was obeyed instantly.
“Trucks!” Ike squealed with glee, catching sight of a pile of toys in a corner, tearing off to fill his arms with a half dozen.
Kevin grinned. “Isn’t he an awesome kid?”
Amanda merely smiled weakly in return.
“Matt and Donna are married?” Sharlene gaped in shock at the computer print-out of the marriage license Frankie had brought her.
“Well, technically they’re remarried, but, yeah.”
“I thought Matt and Jeanne…”
“Interesting, isn’t it?”
“Why would Matt purposely become a bigamist? This makes no sense.”
“Well, see, here’s the interesting thing. After I found this little baby, I did another search for Matt and Jeanne. Turns out they never filed for a license. So, as far as the law is concerned, Matt isn’t a bigamist. He’s just Mr. Donna Love.”
“They’ve certainly kept quiet about it.”
“If you were married to Donna, would you be shouting it from the rooftops?”
Seemingly apropos to nothing, Sharlene said, “Donna was very kind to both John and I right after Gregory died.”
That certainly sobered Frankie up in a hurry. To minimize the damage, she conceded, “Donna did love Gregory.”
“And John,” Sharlene wasn’t willing to pretend otherwise. “She does love John.”
“Not the way you do. Donna loves John because he’s Michael’s brother. He’s her fill-in Hudson man.”
“He loves her,” Sharlene said. “He loved her before me, he loved her after me. Sometimes I wonder if even during – “
“No. No. Just no. You and John belong together. Some people simply… do.”
“I think you’re confusing us with you and Cass,” Sharlene offered gently.
“It takes one to know one,” was the best Frankie could summon in reply.
Sharlene smiled at her valiant attempt. She indicated the marriage license. “Do you really think this could make a difference for me and John?”
“You don’t think John deserves to know that the woman he wants is married to someone else?”
“What if he still wants her anyway?”
“What if we take a break from standing around and asking theoretical questions,” Frankie pointed toward Sharlene’s front door. “And go show this to John?”
“Hey, you’re home!” Zeno observed at the sight of Charlie opening the door to him.
“Yeah,” she let him in.
“Everything, you know, cool?” Zeno peeled off his jacket and hung it on a hook.
“Heard you got banged up pretty bad.”
It was clear Charlie didn’t feel like discussing it. Zeno looked around the living room. “Frankie home?”
“No. She had an appointment.”
“Oh. I was in town. Signing up to go to Bay City U, believe it or not. Thought I’d stop by. Show her the catalogue. Her idea and everything.”
“She’ll probably be back soon. Lori Ann’s at Dean’s, and she doesn’t like staying there for very long. You can wait if you want.” Charlie indicated she didn’t care one way or the other.
Zeno accepted the invitation, plopping down in a chair, making himself at home. In her home. “When you going back to school?”
She shrugged. “Tomorrow, maybe.”
“What about Kirkland?”
“I don’t know.”
“So what the hell were you two doing anyway, that it ended with his car wrapped around a telephone poll?”
“What do you mean what were we doing?” Charlie paled slightly.
“I heard he wasn’t drinking. Wasn’t speeding. No other cars on the road. Figured the two of you were…” Zeno grinned, leaving the rest up to Charlie’s imagination.
“No!” she exploded, her pallor instantly turning to crimson.
“For real?” Zeno seemed skeptical.
“We weren’t… I mean, we don’t… We haven’t….”
“Oh….” Understanding dawned. “Sorry. My bad.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means I’m sorry I jumped to conclusions.”
“It’s none of your business, anyway.”
“You’re right. It’s not. Sorry again.”
She peered at him suspiciously. “Why are you being so nice all of a sudden?”
“I made a mistake. I apologized. If that’s nice then, hey, I’m a nice guy.”
“No, you’re not.”
“I can be.”
“Hearsay,” Charlie snapped, making Zeno laugh.
“You really are a lawyer’s kid, aren’t?”
“I’m not a kid. I’ll be eighteen in a couple days.”
“I’m not a kid,” she insisted.
“It’s because I told him I loved him,” Sarah said, her voice still hoarse, but her face newly dry of tears. “Guys always freak out when you tell them you love them.”
“Grant Harrison isn’t a guy,” Allie pointed out reasonably as the two sat in her bedroom in the Cory house, the initial shock of Sarah's revelation having faded just a little. “He’s, like, an old man. You know he used to be my stepfather?”
“And your grandmother was the same age as mine when she married your grandfather. So what? Look at them. Look at Donna Love and your Uncle Matt.”
“That was creepy, too.”
“I made a mistake,” Sarah calculated. “I don’t usually. I never say I love you first. I didn’t with Steven.”
“And he dumped you anyway.”
“You’re not helping,” Sarah said, laughing nonetheless.
Allie gently reminded, “You knew Grant and Marley were a thing.”
“She dumped him.”
“She got over it.”
“She doesn’t love him as much as I do. And he doesn’t love her, I know it.”
“He married her.”
“And if there’s one thing we know about Bay City, it’s that here, marriage is for keeps.”
“What are you going to do?” Allie asked cautiously, picking up on a tone in her friend’s voice that definitely did not shriek Giving Up Gracefully.
“I think,” Sarah said. “I’m going to go talk to Marley.”
“Wish her congratulations on her marriage.”
“And maybe a little bit more.”
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